PNE boss hoping to make Alexander’s return an unhappy one

Tom Clarke
Tom Clarke
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Simon Grayson is aiming for Graham Alexander to leave Deepdale with nothing more than a good ovation when Preston North End and Fleetwood meet for the first time in a competitive fixture tomorrow.

The derby clash (3pm) sees Cod Army manager Alexander return to PNE who he served as player, caretaker boss and youth team coach.

Lilywhites manager Grayson expects Grezza will be warmly applauded by the North End faithful but does not want the niceties to extend to the field of play.

In his sights is a seventh win on the bounce, the upturn in results of the last month having carried PNE up to third place in the League One table.

Grayson said: “Graham has had some instant success with a promotion under his belt and he has got Fleetwood playing a brand of football which is pleasing on the eye.

“He has done a great job and is a proper football person, as the number of games he played tells you.

“I hope Graham gets the applause before the game and after it but in between it is us getting the three points.

“As players we played against each other a few times, at opposite ends of the pitch with us both being right-backs.

“For him to score with his last kick in football at Preston was a fairy tale.

“With it being a local derby it gives the game some extra spice but our focus is just on trying to get the three points.

“We have a fantastic record at Deepdale and we want to make sure it remains intact after 5pm tomorrow.

“If we show the right level of attitude, appetite and quality, then we have a great chance of winning. But we certainly know what Fleetwood are capable of doing and 
they will be very tough opponents.”

Grayson has had to contend with a lengthy injury list of late, by his reckoning the longest since taking charge.

Scott Wiseman and skipper Tom Clarke were the latest to add their names to it during the week.

Wiseman pulled up with the recurrence of a knee injury in the warm-up at Gillingham, a game Clarke did not travel to having been laid low by illness.

It could be that both return to the frame tomorrow, the back four having been hardest hit by absences.

That said, Grayson could not speak highly enough of the defenders who featured in the Gillingham victory.

“It was a really professional display given the circumstances of being without three of our regular back four,” observed Grayson.

“Bailey Wright and Clarke were out, then we lost Scott in the warm-up.

“The lads who came in did a really professional job and credit to those individuals.

“We will have to wait and see if any of the injured lads are available tomorrow.

“The injury list at the moment is the longest it has been since I have been at the club but that is part and parcel of football. We might have one or two back and we will assess the lads in training today.”

Meanwhile, Joe Garner’s chip in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Port Vale has been short-listed for the competition’s goal of the round award.