Blues boss expects a battle with PNE

Birmingham's Michael Morrison is congratulated after scoring against Leeds in August

Birmingham's Michael Morrison is congratulated after scoring against Leeds in August

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Preston face the first half of a Midlands double header when they play Birmingham at St Andrew’s.

The trip down the M6 for the Lilywhites is followed by Aston Villa’s visit to Deepdale on Saturday.

Of the two second city rivals, it is the Blues who have made the more impressive start to the campaign.

Birmingham have lost just once in the Championship, with four wins and four draws in the bag to date.

On Saturday, they drew 1-1 with Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

Their goal came from Lukas Jutkiewicz, the striker they signed on loan from Burnley last month.

Blues boss Gary Rowett likened the QPR game to a Ultimate Fighting Championship bout.

Rowett said: “It was a hard fought point. I joked in the press before the game that I went to watch the UFC after the last game here – I think this game was probably a bit more like UFC in terms of being a very combative game.

“You know that QPR in the situation they are in with no win in a few games, they are going to take a percentage approach to it.

“We became a little bit embroiled in that, it was a game of second ball which made it tough without much time or control.

“When we did have an opportunity we couldn’t quite make those right decisions in possession or find those right passes.

“In the first half we looked reasonably comfortable and then Michael Morrison rose well for a cross to knock it down for Jutkiewicz to score.

“I was really pleased or him, I thought he was a real handful until he tired late on.

“We then allowed QPR an opportunity to get a corner through not doing our jobs properly defensively, and they scored from that.”

Rowett anticipates another battling kind of contest with North End.

“Preston will be fairly direct, they are a tough team,” said Rowett.

“I would expect them to work their socks off.

“We have got to be better than we were at QPR in terms of fighting and being good on the ball.”

Birmingham were without their leading scorer Clayton Donaldson at QPR because of an Achilles injury.

Donaldson – who netted twice when the Blues and PNE shared a 2-2 draw in April – could return to face Simon Grayson’s men.

Rowett said: “I felt as though if we had played him on Saturday, semi-injured, we would probably have found that he wouldn’t be available for the next two games.

“We certainly don’t want to lose him for a long period with another international break coming up.

“We’ll see how lively he is in training and decide from there.”

If Donaldson is available, Rowett has to decide whether to bring him back or stick with Jutkiewicz.

Donaldson has scored four goals this season, with David Davis and Jutkieicz having both bagged two.

Michael Morrison, Jacques Maghoma and summer signing from Sheffield United Che Adams, have also found the net in league action.