PNE looking to climb into top two

Neil Kilkenny

Neil Kilkenny

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Preston North End will be looking to climb above MK Dons and possibly into the automatic promotion frame tomorrow.

The battle of fourth versus third at Deepdale is League One’s stand-out fixture of the weekend.

Only difference is the only thing separating the sides ahead of kick-off.

Victory for PNE would see them leapfrog Karl Robinson’s team and maybe move into the top two depending on results for Bristol City and Swindon.

An away win though, would see the visitors open up a gap and still have a game in hand.

North End manager Simon Grayson predicts the game will live up to top billing and hopes his side can stretch their unbeaten run to a fifth match.

“It will be a fantastic game between two good teams – two good footballing teams at the top end of the division,” said Grayson.

“We will both be looking to maintain where we are in the and improve over the second half of the season.

“I’m aware of their strengths and weaknesses and they will know what we’ve done this season.

“This year, MK Dons have the strongest squad they’ve had for a long time, Karl will be the first to admit that.

“They have got some good players on loan and some great youngsters coming through.

“We’ll give them the respect they are due but we will focus on what we need to do.

“When you look at their side they have experienced players like Anthony Kay and Dean Lewington who have been there for a few years.

“Dele Alli and Ben Reeves are coming through, then they have the threat of Benik Afobe and Will Grigg up front.

“They have got a good mix, they are a strong side, and in Afobe they have got a player who can score goals out of nothing.

“We have got ourselves on a good run and the togetherness here is excellent.

“There has been the right response to that blip we had and hopefully we can extend the run of results.

“When you look back at the three defeats, we should have got something at Swindon and dominated the second half against Bradford. We deserved nothing at Rochdale.”

Grayson is expected to stick closely with the side which beat Shrewsbury in the FA Cup last Saturday.

A key area tomorrow will be the midfield, with MK Dons having a liking of passing the ball and building play.

Neil Kilkenney and John Welsh were the two holding midfielders last week, with Josh Brownhill and Alan Browne joining the action in the second half as substitutes.

Long-term casualties Andy Little and Calum Woods are back available to Grayson.

Both have been sidelined since September, Little with hamstring and calf injuries and Woods with a torn hamstring.

Said Grayson: “Andy and Calum are available, while Bailey Wright is making good progress.

“We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of injuries.

“With no midweek game we were able to give the lads some time to recharge their batteries and also get some work done on the training pitch. It has been a good week.”