PNE skipper eyes Forest’s scalp

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Preston North End captain John Welsh is looking forward to Nottingham Forest – the sequel – at Deepdale tonight.

The sides clash again in the FA Cup after the first game at the City Ground a week last Friday ended goalless.

Preston skipper John Welsh

Preston skipper John Welsh

It will be played to a conclusion, with extra-time and penalties if needed, and the sides will be showcasing their talents to a wider audience with the contest being broadcast live on BT Sport (7.45pm).

North End were very much the underdogs at Forest, and even with home advantage this evening, will start as second favourites behind their Championship visitors.

But that does not worry Welsh, who anticipates a feisty battle with Billy Davies’ men.

The Lilywhites have more than held their own against opposition from English football’s second tier this season.

Victories over Blackpool and Ipswich – the Tractor Boys seen off after a drawn first game – and the stalemate at Forest, paint a positive picture.

Their one defeat to a side from the division above came at Burnley in August, no disgrace when you look at the Clarets’ lofty position.

Midfielder Welsh told the Evening Post: “We will be confident going into the game – the way things have gone this season we fancy ourselves against anyone.

“Forest are a very good side who have been scoring goals for fun.

“Down at their place we more than matched them and gave a good account of ourselves.

“The performance there was disciplined, we stayed in our shape and worked hard as a team.

“That is something we will have to do again tonight. If we can stay solid at the back then we have players who can create chances and score goals.

“Hopefully we can keep our good run going and make progress in the cup to go alongside what we are doing in the league.

“Our aim is to get promoted, and playing against teams from the Championship can help us see what level we are currently at.

“It should be a decent atmosphere tonight – the games under the lights at Deepdale often are.

“Our record on a Tuesday or Wednesday night with the floodlights on is pretty good.”

At the City Ground, North End played in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 system, getting plenty of bodies in midfield to try and stifle Forest’s attacking threat at source.

It meant a slight imbalance as far as possession statistics were concerned.

But PNE limited Forest to just a single shot on target, while having seven attempts on goal themselves.

As the home side tonight, the onus might be more on them to take the game to Forest.

Said Welsh: “We can play in a similar way to how we did at their place but maybe push on a bit more to try and break them down.

“We know what kind of players they have got and what kind of game they will want to play.

“Forest like to see plenty of the ball and knock it round.

“That is something we have to deal with and it will be important to play off our shape.

“As a team we have to work hard for each other, pass people on and have loads of communication.

“A lot of things go into trying to stop the opposition playing.

“Defensively, we have done very well this season with plenty of clean sheets.

“The back four, the back three or the back five – whatever the gaffer chooses to play – pride themselves on not giving chances away.”

North End will lose the services of new signing Craig Davies tonight but have the option of replacing him with Kevin Davies up front.

Craig Davies is cup-tied, having played for Bolton against Cardiff shortly before his switch to Deepdale.

But Kevin Davies is back available after serving a three-match suspension.

Welsh, 30, said: “We just call both of them ‘Davo’ and get on with it!

“I thought that Craig did really well on his debut against Notts County.

“He has come the league above, is a strong player and a really nice lad.

“On the first day he came in, Craig get on well with everyone and we are pleased to have him here.

“He took his goal really well on Saturday, I didn’t expect him to shoot when he did but it was a great finish.”

Although the FA Cup is not a priority for some clubs, Welsh remains a big fan of the competition.

As a Liverpool supporter, he has been to the cup final a few times, seeing the Reds win and lose.

“For me, the FA Cup is still massive,” said Welsh.

“As a kid I saw Liverpool play in the final and I made my debut for them in the competition.

“It is a chance to play against some big clubs.”