Rewind two seasons, Preston North End were managed by Graham Westley and the club were about to embark on a run of almost five months without a home league win.
Nowadays, Deepdale is a much brighter place. The team, now managed by Simon Grayson, has a clear direction and after winning seven matches in a row, sit second in League One.
It isn’t just that PNE fans have to shout about though. The Lilywhites are also the only team in the Football League to have scored in every game so far, as well as having the joint highest number of clean sheets with Walsall and Notts County.
One man who is crucial to North End’s successes is lifelong fan Joe Garner. The striker has already netted 11 goals in all competitions this season, and is becoming even more of a hero than his 24 goals made him when he found his scoring boots last campaign.
Saturday’s game against Fleetwood was a great example of the 26-year-old’s passion. Garner pulled off a 19 minute hat-trick to earn Preston all three points despite the Cod Army taking the lead which had them go into half time 2-0 up.
In the summer, despite North End receiving a number of offers for Garner the striker decided to remain loyal and try to help PNE go one better than last season’s failed play-off campaign.
So far, he is being rewarded for his loyalty with the side rivalling Bristol City in the automatic promotion places. The 26-year-old’s commitment to the cause was no less evident than on Saturday afternoon, as he stood in as captain for the day a kissed the armband after scoring his first goal.
One player who perhaps has not lived up to his billing since joining the club is former England international Kevin Davies. However, after being on the end of a fair amount of scrutiny, the 37-year-old came off the bench to play a vital part in the win over Fleetwood.
At the stage of his career, Davies won’t be able to perform at his peak each week, but if he’s able to roll back the years and combine with Garner like he did on Saturday, then all bodes well for North End’s promotion charge.
Focus now switches to tonight’s game against Leyton Orient, a rearranged fixture due to international commitments. It is one of North End’s two games in hand on Bristol City, in which a win would see the Lilywhites go just two points behind the Robins with one game in hand, as well as stretching the winning run to eight matches on the bounce.
Fans will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s trip to the capital, when North End broke Orient’s unbeaten home start to the season with a 1-0 win at Brisbane Road.