Preston North End 1 Wolves 1

Alex Neil believes his team probably would have won this game had they kept 11 men on the pitch.

He might have a point.

They certainly nullified our attackers for much of this scrappy contest and deservedly got themselves ahead.

A turbo injected start to the second half saw them strike the post before powering home the opener from a set piece. Wolves were wobbling and it looked a treacherous road back.

But the fact Preston didn’t finish with a full complement of players isn’t the result of some hard luck story.

Our front three were routinely chopped and hacked all afternoon so when Ivan Cavaleiro’s breakaway was deliberately halted by John Welsh, the midfielder got exactly what he deserved.

That’s not necessarily a criticism.

Preston got themselves into the ascendancy by pressing high and tackling hard to restrict Wolves space to play, but that is always likely to encourage punishment from the referee. The point being you’ve got to live and die by the sword.

Credit to them for digging in after the red card to deny the league leaders a fourth successive win.

Had Helder Costa not bundled his way through to score an equaliser minutes later, it could have been even better for the hosts.

That’s two in two for last season’s player of the year, whose best form is still yet to fully bubble to the surface.

Nuno threw on Benik Afobe in search of the goal that would have extended his side’s lead at the top, but after the keeper smothered his only clear sighter, that was pretty much that.

Neves tried his luck from distance and an ever growing contingent of gold shirts camped out in the attacking third, but nothing was getting through.

You can question the coach’s tactical choices, but as he said afterwards, once Preston were down to 10, they surrendered any and all attacking intent in favour of keeping every body behind the ball. In that instance, there’s only so much you can do.

Invariably at this stage of the season when you don’t get the maximum, attention turns elsewhere and with Villa coming unstuck at Craven Cottage and Derby losing to Sheffield Wednesday the other night, this wasn’t an unsatisfactory outcome to the week.

It’s another of the more difficult fixtures checked off the list, one game closer and still nothing but clear road ahead.

Preston North Ends Vs Wolves Preview

Our previous encounter with Preston should serve as a reminder about the ever present danger of this competition.

Wolves had that game won – three goals to the good midway through the second half – but it ended up being uncomfortably close in the final moments.

It was similar against QPR last weekend.

If you let your guard down for a moment, expect a violent slap in the chops. That was literally the case for Diogo Jota of course.

I am as certain as you can be in football that this team will be promoted well before the start of May, but they owe it to themselves to finish as they started, which is to say, miles ahead of everyone else.

Preston

I did a podcast earlier in the week with a Preston fan and admitted to him I was surprised they’d managed to remain in play-off contention.

Not only do they have one of the lowest budgets in the league, but they’ve had to endure various injuries and cope with the loss of their star player in January.

Yet they’re still there, hanging onto the coat tails of the top six and scrapping it out for every point available. They could easily have won at Brentford last time out, which would have left them only a point below Bristol City.

Alex Neil is up against it again tomorrow with a couple of their better performers suspended. Skipper Greg Cunningham and influential midfielder Ben Pearson the two to miss out.

They’ve won six, drawn six and lost three of their 15 games at Deepdale. That puts them midtable in terms of home form, but underlines how difficult they are to beat.

Betting

No surprise Wolves are odds on to win this one at 5/4 with Bet365. Preston are 13/5 and the draw is 23/10. And if you are looking to place some wagers make sure to check the best sportsbooks to get the best return on your initial stake.

Wolves

25 minutes of spellbinding play and some backs to the wall defending was enough to see off QPR.

I did feel it was one of very few games lately that Wolves have surrendered control to the opposition. Hopefully they dictate better and for longer at Deepdale.

I’m loathe to change a winning team but maybe this one might be a good opportunity for Benik Afobe? His pace and physicality on a tight pitch will come in handy.

It would be nice to have Romain Saiss back even if it’s only on the bench. He’s good at calming the momentum when the opposition get on top, which is something we could have done with last weekend.

Predictions

Sometimes you get a particular fixture at the right time and with their suspensions coupled with the loss of James Hugill, this looks like a good opportunity for another maximum.

It’s never easy at Preston so I’m not expecting a cruise, but I think we’ll do what’s required.

2-1.

Up The Wolves.

Wolves 3 Preston North End 2

If last week’s victory was a demonstration of Wolves’ ability to win beautifully, then this tempestuous fixture was the opposite.

Whether or not it had anything to do with the old adage of foreigners not liking wet and windy weather, many of our continental stars were off colour in the opening half.

Enough stray passes were played to make an untrained eye think that this was Paul Lambert’s Wolves side on display, and not the Nuno incarnation that has had us all purring of late.

Our own shortcomings aside, there’s no denying the credentials of our opposition.

Preston came with a gameplan and, much like Cardiff, executed it to perfection, though admittedly they were fortunate to have the mind bogglingly incompetent Stephen Martin on refereeing duties.

Questions were asked of Wolves, and for large parts of the game it was difficult to remain steadfast in the belief we would answer them.

Alas, this team appears to be capable of conjuring goals at will and did so at the death of a first half in which we had been second best.

The rejuvenated and oft celebrated Ivan Cavaleiro showed a striker’s instinct to tap over the line after the ball had ricocheted around the box, notching a goal which revitalised an otherwise sluggish home team.

One might argue that Leo Bonatini’s ensuing brace and the subsequent three goal advantage flattered Nuno’s side, but the majority of the 27,000 plus crowd cared little for justice at that point.

The Brazilian loanee is really starting to look the part and has proven the frivolous concerns of some regarding his ability to score goals to be just that. His nimble footwork, deceiving strength and excellent reading of the game makes him a key cog in our feverish front three and I’d like to see Fosun make his stay at Molineux permanent come the summer.

Our healthy cushion was not to last long, with the Lilywhites providing a perhaps timely reminder that, for all the resolve of the new look back three, we are still capable of conceding needless goals.

First, the impressive Jordan Hugill was given the freedom of Molineux and headed home a teasing cross before Roderick Miranda then conspired to miss a routine clearance and allow Preston to force home a sloppy own goal.

I’m a fan of Miranda, believing him to be one of the more underrated of our summer acquisitions, but he was our weakness for much of yesterday’s game. He’ll need to improve his concentration levels if he’s to fend off the returning Willy Boly’s claim for a place in the starting eleven.

What ensued after that carnage was an acid test of our resilience, with Preston dominating the ball and invoking some real backs to the wall defending. Connor Coady and Romain Saiss were particularly brilliant during this period, both using their gangly frames to help prevent disaster.

After we rode out a spell of seemingly endless pressure, the aforementioned Martin decided to allow the game to descend into farce by instigating a mass brawl between all sets of players. This culminated in the just sending off of Alan Browne and his hilarious ‘Where’s Wally?’ like efforts to find him after his quick trudge down the tunnel.

Some comic relief on an otherwise stressful, but no less gratifying, afternoon.

Though Nuno’s unlikely to have enjoyed this one quite as much as he did the Villa game, his team have nonetheless proven that they can win games one of two ways. History will tell you that’s an essential characteristic for any promotion chasing side to have, and whilst it remains early days it’s hard to contest the view that Wolves are looking ominously equipped to achieve their ambitions.