Easter bonanza for PNE

Daniel Johnson has scored six times in 12 PNE appearances

Daniel Johnson has scored six times in 12 PNE appearances

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A crucial Easter Bank Holiday weekend awaits Preston North End in their quest to win promotion from League One.

Simon Grayson’s men currently find themselves occupying the second automatic promotion spot – four points clear of third placed Swindon Town .

But with North End facing two games over the next four days, the League One table could have an entirely different complexion next week.

A win over play-off chasing Rochdale at Deepdale today, coupled with victory against Bradford City at Valley Parade on Easter Monday could put the Lilywhites firmly in the driving seat for promotion.

However, anything other than maximum points could hand the initiative back to Swindon and MK Dons, who are in fourth.

Intriguingly, those two clubs meet tomorrow at the County Ground, while Swindon then face leaders Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Tuesday evening.

Many observers have labelled the next few days as a make-or-break period in the race for automatic promotion from League One.

Grayson, though, is not concerned with events which may unfold elsewhere and is remaining primarily focused on the threat posed by Rochdale tomorrow.

“I am not concerned with what over teams are doing,” Grayson said.

“It’s about what we do. If somebody had said to me before the start of pre-season that with eight games to go, we would be four points clear in second position, we would have taken that.

“We are in a good position and on a good run, but we need to keep improving and keep focused.

“We need to approach every game on its merit day by day.”

While their rivals at the top of the table face each other, Grayson knows his team are not guaranteed three points against Rochdale, who are only one point outside the play-offs.

And PNE are still smarting from the 3-0 loss they suffered at Spotland in November, which to date, is their heaviest defeat of the season.

“I think Rochdale have done very well this season,” Grayson said.

“They fall into the same bracket as Chesterfield and Fleetwood, who have continued the momentum of promotion from League Two.

“They are all within the realm of getting in the play-offs, which is a fantastic testimony to them.

“Keith Hill’s teams play good football with a vibe and energy about them, so we know we are in for a tough game.”

Grayson has also backed midfielder Daniel Johnson to continue his fantastic goalscoring form.

The 22-year-old has hit six goals in 12 appearances since arriving in January from Aston Villa.

“Daniel’s hit the ground running since he’s come,” Gryason said. “I’m thrilled to bits with how he’s done.”