It is Newcastle v Preston tonight and the weekend’s results have set up NUFC perfectly.
Defeats for Huddersfield and Reading mean that a Magpies victory will ensure automatic promotion.
Whilst Brighton’s defeat at Norwich has given Rafa Benitez a small chance of still ending up as champions.
Tonight’s visitors though are on a bit of a downer, having put themselves in with a chance of the play-offs, three straight defeats have ended those hopes.
Preston midfielder Alan Browne says that in three years at the club he can’t remember them losing four games in a row and doesn’t want this to be the first occasion that this happens.
Whilst some Newcastle fans have been up in arms about Huddersfield fan Anthony Madley refereeing tonight, Browne doesn’t seem too happy about it either.
The Preston player says he hopes it isn’t a case of deja vu because it was Madley in charge back in October when Newcastle won the League Cup game 6-0, with Alan Browne dismissed for a reckless challenge on Jack Colback with the score at 1-0. Two goals from Mitrovic, two from Diame and one each by Ritchie and Diame, sealed that result.
With some 16 changes that night, it was more a game between the squads rather than the teams and Newcastle won hands down, even before the red card they controlled the whole game.
Browne missed the game four days later at Deepdale due to suspension and he feels that was a better reflection of the two teams, Newcastle winning 2-1 but pinned in their own half for most of the second-half.
Somewhere in between these two earlier results against Preston would do Newcastle just fine.
Though it would be icing on the cake to see a few goals (in the right net)…
Alan Browne speaking to the Lancashire Evening Post:
“That is a big test for us and a game to look forward to.
“St James Park does not hold good memories for me as I got a red card when we played there in the EFL Cup in October and we all know what the result was.
“We know it is going to be tough at Newcastle, there will be a big atmosphere with them going for promotion.
“We have to be ‘at it’ and right defensively, while at the other end hopefully we can break them down.
“You could argue that we can go there with a bit of freedom and licence to play, bearing in mind the pressure will be on Newcastle with them close to promotion.
“We have players who can hurt teams – Aiden McGeady, Tommy Barkhuizen, Callum Robinson – they are great lads going forward. Give them the ball and they can really make things happen. As long as we are right defensively and stay in the game, we know that we have a chance.
“We played Newcastle at Deepdale straight after the big cup defeat and the team did much better. Being suspended, I had to watch the game from the stand and I thought that we deserved something out of the game. A few decisions went against us towards the end of the game, had they gone for us we could have got a draw.
“Back to the present day and we go to Newcastle on the back of three defeats in a row, which isn’t like us. We lost three on the bounce at the start of the season when we were looking for the right team and balance. Once we found those things, we put together a run which took us quite close to nicking a play-off position.
“The last three results meant that was not to be and maybe if we had started the season a bit better, we might still have been in and around the top six.
“It is not like us to lose three on the bounce and we don’t want it to become four at St James Park – I cannot remember that happening in my time here.”