Preston North End interim head coach Frankie McAvoy has been delighted with what he has got from the players since he was handed the role back in March.
The Lilywhites head into this weekend’s trip to face Coventry City, at the temporary home of St Andrews, having won two, drawn two and lost just one of the five games Frankie has managed and they are now looking to finish the season strongly.
Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the clash with the Sky Blues, the Scot was complimentary of what the players had given him and hoped for more over the final three games of the season.
“A lot of people don’t really think about confidence as being a big thing, but it is and since the Brentford game the guys have done well,” he said. “They [the players] deserve the plaudits; they have kept two clean sheets, we have managed to beat Derby when everyone was telling us it was a cup final for them, but it was a big game for us as well.
“We came in with eight games to go and our task was to win as many games as we could, get as many points as we could and see where we finished at the end of those eight games and the aim is still to do that and what we will do is work with this good group of players we have here, to try and get the best that we can out of the players each and every game and we will try and do that at Coventry on Saturday.”
The weekend’s opponents have also been in good form, having won three in a row to lift them away from any lingering threat of being drawn into the battle to stay in the division and, having been to see them in the flesh this week, Frankie has been impressed by their performances.
“They have done very well,” he continued. “To win three games in a row in the Championship is a great feat in itself, particularly when you are down at the bottom end of the table, fighting to stay in the Championship.
“There are a lot of clubs who have been in that precarious position and credit to Mark Robins and his coaching staff and the players, they have done really well.
“I thought they deserved to win against Rotherham, they were the better team, there was no doubt about it and they beat Barnsley at home 2-0, who are fighting to stay in the Play-Off positions, as well as beating Stoke City at Stoke, so we are under no illusions it will be a tough game for us.
“We will go in there and give it our best shot and go and try and win the game.”
Like the Lilywhites, they have played a 3-5-2 formation of late and this has worked well for them: “You are getting that structure which you think is going to give you that best opportunity and chances to win the game and, to be fair, that seems to have been the formation that has worked for them.
“They have got decent players, good defenders and good front players as well; it has the makings of a good game and I am looking forward to it – fingers crossed we will do alright.”
One of their players is a former North Ender, who could line up against PNE for his second different club this season on the weekend. Matty James had a successful loan spell with the Lilywhites in Darren Ferguson’s time as manager and he played for Barnsley against the club at Oakwell back in December, before making a January move to City.
And the interim boss feels their midfield is a good one: “I went to the game at Rotherham and Matty [James] played in the centre of the park with [Liam] Kelly and Callum O’Hare and they are good players, so it will be a tough game.
“But we have good players as well and it is about getting the right team, the right selection to go and try and give us the best opportunity to try and win the game and we will try and do that.”
In recent weeks, the topic of leadership has been on the agenda and Frankie believes that he has a number of players who take that responsibility out onto the pitch with them and that they will do everything they can to try and get the result required.
“They need to lead on the pitch, because we can prepare them as best as we can and try and get them to do what we need them to do, but, ultimately, they are in charge of their own destiny on the pitch.
“They need to be free to go and express themselves, they need to make the right decisions at the right time, because we can’t paint every scenario or situation that is going to happen within a game, but I have been delighted with the team spirit.
“They are a good group of boys; they give everything and I can’t ask for any more, I really can’t.
“I have really enjoyed it; it is stressful at times, particularly when you are trying to win games, because it is not easy – you have no divine right to win a game of football, because the team you are up against are trying to do the same, but I know as soon as the players cross that white line, they will do everything they can to try and win the game and that’s what the goal,” he added.
This weekend's game will see Jonathan Breeze back on the mic, for the Lilywhites' second trip to St Andrews this season; he will be joined by a co-commentator for live and exclusive coverage from 2.30pm on iFollow PNE, with all the usual camera angles, replays and graphics. Click here now to purchase your match pass for £10.