Blues head into their penultimate Championship game today against Preston knowing securing a point will confirm safety from relegation. A point would leave Blues on 51 points, three clear off the dropzone should Hull or Luton (who both have vastly inferior goal differences) win.
A injury time equaliser by Lukas Jutkiewicz earned Blues a big point at home to fellow Championship strugglers Charlton Athletic on Wednesday, the teams improved performance will have also given Steve Spooner and Craig Gardner optimism heading into today’s clash at Deepdale.
Similar to Blues, Preston have exhibited a downfall in results since the Championship restart. Prior to lockdown Preston were in possession of playoff spot, however one win out of six since has left The Lilywhites five points adrift from the playoff places. Alex Neil’s side will need to win both of their remaining fixtures and hope Cardiff City, Millwall and Swansea City all slip up to have any hope of a playoff place.
Last Time Out
Lukas Jutkiewicz’s 15th goal of the season came in the 93rd minute of the game against Charlton Athletic on Wednesday and it’s fair to say it was an important one. The goal took Blues to 50 points and also prevented Charlton from leapfrogging Steve Spooner’s side. Blues should have gone ahead in the first half, but a penalty miss by out of from Scott Hogan meant the teams went into the break with nothing to separate them. It looked like Blues were going to do it the hard way yet again after Charlton scored against the run of play. However, a great turn and cross by Jude Bellingham saw Jutkiewicz equalise late on after an initial effort by Harlee Dean was palmed away.
An early goal by Championship top goalscorer Ollie Watkins was enough for Brentford to overcome Preston on Wednesday. Although Preston threatened in the second half no equaliser came and the defeat all but ended their hopes of a place in the play-offs.
Blues remain without loanee centre-half Jake Clarke-Salter, however Steve Spooner is not troubled by any fresh injury concerns,
Preston are likely to be without centre-half Ben Davies after he missed the game against Brentford in the week. Midfielder Ben Pearson is also a doubt for the game.
One to Watch
Attacking midfielder Daniel Johnson has scored 12 goals this season and is Prestons top goal scorer. The Lilywhites signed the Jamaican international from Villa back in 2015 for just £50,000, the goal scoring midfielder has been a bargain for Preston after bagging 42 goals and 24 assists in 212 appearances.
Views from the Dugouts
A much improved performance by the Blues on Wednesday has given Steve Spooner something to build on and the caretaker boss has said this needs to become a more regular occurrence;
More of the same as we showed against Charlton. That kind of performance has to become a habit rather than just a one-off. The players know that, and we’ve set our standard and that’s very much a part of what we spoke about.
Spooner also suggested that Preston having to get a win against the Blues to have any chance of getting into the playoff may play into their hand.
“If the game goes on and it’s a draw, they might have to try to do something different and they could open up and that’s something we will be aware of. They’re not going to let if fizzle out while they’ve still in with a chance.”
Alex Neil’s comments ahead of the game also suggested that Preston will certainly be going all out to win the match;
Our only thought is playing Birmingham. If we can win that and results go in our favour like they have done on occasions before, then we can take it into the last game. We need to win the next game, end of story
Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC