PNE mood is on the up and up

Callum Robinson came on as a substitute against Manchester United

Callum Robinson came on as a substitute against Manchester United

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An air of optimism is sweeping through the dressing room at Deepdale as Preston North End look to make it three league wins on the spin tomorrow.

PNE will be looking to bridge the four-point gap between themselves in fourth and the automatic promotion places in League One when they host Scunthorpe United.

After the month of January failed to yield a single league victory, a cloud of despondency appeared to be hovering over the club.

But this month has seen North End record three successive victories – including two in the league.

They are right back in contention at the top of the table and Monday night’s battling 3-1 defeat to Premier League giants Manchester United in the FA Cup seems to have re-energised the fans, who turned out in their thousands to support the team.

“At any stage of the season, you are always going to have a little blip,” said North End boss Simon Grayson.

“And you get one or two people, who probably have not been to the games, commenting on situations.

“But the majority of our supporters are very understanding of what we trying to do and what we have done.

“It’s two years on Wednesday since we came in and would the fans have envisaged two years ago that we would be in this position? Probably not.

“I think the football club is moving in the right direction, both on and off the pitch.

“There is a lot of positivity about what we are doing.”

One factor which is exciting Grayson is the growing strength in depth of his squad.

Less than a month ago, the North End boss was struggling for options in attack due to the club’s casualty list.

But over the last few weeks that problem has eased somewhat. In fact, Grayson is now spoilt for choice in that area of the field. The talismanic Joe Garner has already made his mark since returning from a long-term shin problem.

And loan man Callum Robinson – who has been suffering from a tight hamstring – made his second PNE debut against United after re-signing from Aston Villa in January.

Jermaine Beckford is well on the road to recovery after suffering an ear infection, while Andy Little and Jordan Hugill are back available.

Hugill has been out since September after suffering a serious knee injury but scored twice in a bounce game against Fleetwood this week and is champing at the bit to return.

“There have been some good signs over the last week or so with players coming back,” Grayson said.

“Jordan got 90 minutes and two goals under his belt in a reserve game and Andy Little played in that also.

“Jermaine Beckford has joined back in training with us after being out for four weeks. He is going to get more conditioning work in him over the next few days.

“When you look at the options we have got now – there’s Garner, Kevin Davies, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Beckford, Little, Kyel Reid, Chris Humphrey, Hugill. It’s nice to have all those options.

“We were a little thin on the ground but we knew that these players were not too far away.

“There are going to be some nice options, but we need them because we are playing Saturday-Tuesday for the next month or so. Hopefully, we can keep everybody fit for the big push now.”

Davies is expected to be fit for tomorrow’s game despite suffering a hand injury against United, when Garner accidentally trod on it.

“It won’t keep him from being involved at the weekend,” Grayson said.