PNE are back in the Saddle

Paul Gallagher
Paul Gallagher
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Revenge will be sweet for Preston North End tonight if they can get the better of Walsall at Deepdale.

The two teams will meet for the fourth time this season – with North End yet to get the better of the Saddlers in the previous three encounters.

In September at the Bescot Stadium, Grayson’s men were well beaten 3-1 in a League One fixture.

Then earlier this year, it was Walsall who covered themselves in glory when they reached Wembley for the first time in their history – at the expense of the Lilywhites.

Two late goals from Anthony Forde and Tom Bradshaw handed Dean Smith’s men the advantage at Deepdale in the first leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area final in January.

Twenty days later, the Saddlers completed the job when they held North End to a goalless draw in the second leg at home to win the tie 2-0 on aggregate.

Grayson admits the JPT defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for his men, but that disappointment will probably not feel quite as bad if his team can collect all three points tonight.

When asked if he would prefer to have the three points on offer tonight, instead of a trip to Wembley, Grayson said: “I would have preferred to have both.

“I would have preferred to have three points and a date at Wembley.

“But we can’t affect all that now. All we can do is affect what is in front of us and that’s trying to get three points tonight.

“I would not say we owe them one because we’d be wanting to win tonight regardless of who we are up against.”

Despite losing to Walsall in the JPT, Grayson believes his men can draw confidence from the cup tie.

“We have to test them and we can draw strength from some of the positives in the games that we have played against them.

“In the first half of the JPT at Deepdale, it could have been over and done but that’s history now, it’s been put to bed.

“We know a lot about them. We know we haven’t had a good time against them this year but last season we did the double over them.”

A win for North End would be their fourth successive league victory and could see them rise to third in the League One table, depending on other results on the night.

On Saturday, they enjoyed an excellent 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe United thanks to second-half goals from Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher.

“We are feeling very buoyant with the result and performance on Saturday,” Grayson said.

“I think when you are on a run like we are on at this moment in time, you just want to be playing Saturday-Tuesday – the games can’t come quick enough.

“Our league form is good at the moment – three wins on the trot, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

Grayson also had a word of praise for goalscorer Johnson, who has settled in well at Deepdale since making the move from Aston Villa last month.

“He’s done well. I think there’s a lot more to come from him,” he said.

“He’s still a young kid, who is finding his feet but I said to him at half-time on Saturday that he needed to get a little bit further forward and get into the box. He reaped the rewards with his goal.”

North End will check over the fitness of Paul Gallagher, who was substituted on Saturday with a slight niggle.

“We’ll assess Gally,” Grayson said. “Hopefully, he will be okay because he’s been influential for us.”