PNE opponents pushing for top six after Jok’s revolution

Tom Cairney in action for Fulham
Tom Cairney in action for Fulham
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Simon Grayson is impressed with how Slavisa Jokanovic has turned Fulham from a side threatened by relegation to one challenging for the top six.

The Cottagers finished last season in 20th place but will start Preston’s visit to London in seventh.

Jokanovic took the reins at Craven Cottage at the end of 2015 and has really made his mark during this campaign.

Only a point separates PNE and Fulham, Grayson’s men having also kicked on from last season.

This is the third season in the Championship for Fulham after 13 years as a Premier League side.

Grayson notes that making the adjustment to this level can be a difficult one for clubs dropping down, that the case with Saturday’s opponents.

“Clubs don’t always find it easy to go straight back up,” said the North End boss.

“If you don’t make it back at the first attempt, there tends to be a big turnover of players and that process can take a long period of time to get right.

“What you have seen with Slavisa’s time down there is that he has progressed the club.

“Fulham are probably one of the best in this division in terms of keeping the ball, their possession stats are good.

“They are doing a lot of good things, hence why they are in the position they are.

“We know we are going to be for a tough game but they will be thinking that too as our form is very good.”

Fulham were 2-1 winners at Deepdale in August, Sone Aluko and Matt Smith scoring for the visitors before Callum Robinson pulled a goal back with a diving header.

That was Joe Garner’s last game for Preston before his move to Rangers.

Assessing the London side, Grayson said: “They pass the ball really quickly, they have forward runners and their rotation is very good.

“Players like Tom Cairney are attracting a lot of attention.

“They have got pace in their forward areas, their full-backs get up the pitch like wingers.

“We know what threats we have to be aware of but we have done a lot of work of where we think they have weaknesses.”

Fulham are unbeaten in four Championship games, although among that run was a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham in the FA Cup.

Last week, they drew 2-2 at Cardiff, Stefan Johansen and Neeskens Kebano scoring.

Kebano was a first-half sub for Lucas Piazon, the on-loan Chelsea striker having been forced off with a broken jaw.

Chris Martin, on a season’s loan from Derby, is their top scorer in the league with nine goals – however he has fallen out of favour of late.

Cairney has found the net seven times, as has Johansen who signed from Celtic late in the August deadline.

Former Blackburn man Cairney says Jokanovic 
deserves praise for their 
current position.

“The manager and the staff have got to take a lot of credit,”said Cairney.

“ He has stabilised the club and transformed the way we play. The fans are enjoying our style of football.”