Newly-promoted Preston North End are the latest side to feature in our team preview series
Preston North End
Home ground: Deepdale
Manager: Simon Grayson
2014/15 league position: 3rd (League One)
2014/15 top goalscorer: Joe Garner (27 in all competitons)
After missing out on automatic promotion in agonising fashion on the final day of the League One side, Preston North End recovered bounced back to seal their place in this season’s Championship via the play-offs.
Unbeaten in their first five league matches, Preston recovered from their first defeat against Walsall to put together an eight-game winning run in all competitions.
Losing their next three league matches, they again bounced back in memorable fashion to beat eventual League One champions Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
But despite the win, it proved to be a day to forget for the Lilywhites as Joe Garner, who would end the season as League One’s leading goalscorer with 25 goals, was ruled out until February with a tendon injury, while Aston Villa loanee Callum Robinson was recalled by the Villans.
Bolton Wanderers loanee Jermaine Beckford was signed to boost their attack, as Preston remained unbeaten for ten games heading into the New Year, before their fortunes collapsed as they won just one of their first eight matches of 2015.
However, boosted by the return of Garner from injury and Robinson on a second loan from Aston Villa, a 2-1 defeat to Crawley Town in late-January would prove to be their final league defeat until the last day of the season as the Lilywhites surged up the table.
Beckford’s return from a month on the side-lines because of illness in late-February coincided with a upturn in form from the forward as he scored 15 goals in the final three months of the campaign to boost Preston’s automatic promotion chances.
Sitting comfortably in second place during the latter weeks of the campaign, three successive draws allowed MK Dons to close the gap before the final day of the season.
With their promotion hopes in their own hands, North End’s defeat to Colchester United alongside MK Dons’ victory over relegated Yeovil Town meant Preston would have to make do with a play-off place.
Beating Chesterfield in the semi-finals, the Lilywhites faced Swindon Town in the final hoping it would be tenth-time lucky at Wembley, having never won promotion from their previous nine play-off attempts.
Beckford continued his excellent form for the Lilywhites after reuniting with his former Leeds United manager Simon Grayson at Deepdale, to fire home a hat-trick in a one-sided 4-0 victory to seal North End’s return to the second-tier for the first time since 2011.
FIXTURES V BOLTON IN 2015/16
Saturday 31 October 2015 – 3pm kick-off at Deepdale
Saturday 12 March 2016 – 3pm kick-off at Macron Stadium
RESULTS V WANDERERS IN 2000/01
Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Preston North End – 26/8/2000
Preston North End 0-2 Bolton Wanderers – 1/1/2001
Bolton Wanderers 3-0 Preston North End – 28/5/2001
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