Preston North End’s strong first season back in the Championship has impressed Brian McDermott, manager of this weekend’s opponents Reading.
The Lilywhites round off their travels for the season with the trip to Berkshire, one which is a dead rubber in terms of promotion or relegation.
However, both clubs are eyeing good finishes to the campaign after seeing their form dip of late.
North End have to go back to April 2 for their last win, the 2-1 derby success against Blackburn at Ewood Park.
Reading’s 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers last week halted a four-match losing run.
With that in mind, there is still something to play for at the Madejski Stadium, this Preston’s first visit there for five years.
McDermott said: “They have had a good season.
“Simon Grayson is an ex-Leeds manager – we had a couple of nights out when I lived in the north.
“He’s a good manager and Preston have players who can score goals.
“Simon changes his system on occasions and they’ve been a threat this season.
“They have done very well and will be competitive on Saturday.”
McDermott was not in charge of Reading for the reverse fixture at Deepdale on December 12, a game which PNE won 1-0 thanks to a Joe Garner penalty.
Holding the fort that day was Martin Kuhl, following the sacking of Steve Clarke.
A slide from the top of the table, during which Clarke also spoke to Fulham about their head coach vacancy, cost him his job.
McDermott was appointed a week after the Preston defeat, returning for a second spell in charge – he was manager for more than three years between December 2009 and March 2013.
He is already looking forward to starting afresh next season and that might be reflected in his team selection against North End, as it was at QPR last Saturday.
Said McDermott: “I want to try and build something again here, so next season has to be in my mind.
“It’s common sense to select the players who are going to be with us next season – it has to be that way.
“George Evans played the full game at QPR, Deniss Rakells scored again.
“Yann Kermorgant looked like he was striking up a good partnership with Deniss.
“They will all be a big part of next season.
“And I’m really looking forward to getting going in pre-season, getting a group of players together who are going to do us proud next season.”
It had been a miserable April for Reading until the draw at QPR, defeats to Hull, Middlesbrough, Leeds and Birmingham putting the pressure on.
McDermott said: “ The last few weeks hurt.
“So we needed that result at QPR. It was crazy that we hadn’t got anything from the last four games.
“Last week, we were getting the details of Championship football right – tracking runners, second balls, stopping crosses, all the things we know we have to do to be successful in this division, all the things we’re looking forward to doing next season.”
Reading will have Paul McShane and Danny Williams back from suspension against Preston.
The pair were hit with three-game bans by the FA for violent conduct after clashing with one another during the defeat at Middlesbrough on April 12.
Anton Ferdinand , once an £8m signing for Sunderland from West Ham, has been one of the players deputising for McShane in the centre of the Royals defence.
In January, Reading sold top scorer Nick Blackman to Derby for £2.5m.
Orlando Sa, scorer of five goals, also left the club to join Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Latvian striker Rakells was signed from Polish club Cracovia and Kermorgant from Bournemouth to replace them.