Preston North End’s FA Cup visit to Nottingham Forest will be a ‘yardstick’ of their progress, according to Simon Grayson.
Tonight’s clash at the City Ground (8pm) is the fourth time that North End have met Championship opposition this season.
But PNE boss Grayson sees the clash with Billy Davies’ men as the sternest test yet.
“This is an even bigger yardstick because Forest are flying at the moment and the quality of players they have got is very high,” said Grayson.
“Their ultimate ambition is to get automatic promotion to the Premier League and they proved in the last round what they are capable of.
“Last weekend they beat Blackburn 4-1, so we know we are in for a really tough tie.
“I’m sure, though, that Billy Davies and his crew will have looked at us and seen how well we are doing and what capabilities we have.”
The presence of ex-Preston manager Davies in the home dugout adds another ingredient to proceedings.
However, Grayson insists the focus should be on the field of play rather than the touchline.
Said Grayson: “Billy is a passionate Scotsman who cares about the club he works for. He has gone back to Forest and got them going again.
“His sole aim is to get promotion because a big club like Forest should be in the Premier League.
“The fact it is Billy in charge there makes no difference whatsoever.
“I am focused on our team and we will give Forest the respect they deserve. We have watched them for the last couple of games and they’ve done well.
“It is not about managers and what they have done previously at other clubs. The 11 players from each side will go out and decide the result.
“As managers we can both put our teams out there, try and get things tactically right and try and make the right substitutions.
“Ultimately it is about what the players can do and how they perform.”
Grayson has few selection worries, striker Kevin Davies the one absentee as he starts a three-match ban.
Scott Wiseman is free to play, having missed the third-round replay win over Ipswich as he had not been signed before the first game at Portman Road.
Although the loss of Davies is a blow, North End do have a variety of options to fill the attacking vacancy.
“Over the last few weeks we have used different formation with different personnel within those formations,” said Grayson.
“Kevin Davies hasn’t played in every game so we have managed without him before.
“It is about sending a team out against whoever you play to make sure they compete and to try and win the game.
“We will put out a team tonight to try and cause an upset.”
North End will have a big away following behind them, with ticket sales approaching the 2,000 mark.