Tough month ahead for PNE

Daniel Johnson (centre) and Callum Robinson used to play for Aston Villa
Daniel Johnson (centre) and Callum Robinson used to play for Aston Villa
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Preston kick off a difficult looking October tomorrow by welcoming Aston Villa to Deepdale for the first time for more than 42 years.

This month, the Lilywhites face all three clubs relegated from the Premier League.

They also have games with current Championship leaders Huddersfield and a Brighton side who are in fourth place.

North End manager Simon Grayson is looking forward to the challenge which October offers and hopes his side’s improved form of late can continue either side of the international break.

Grayson said: “We have to play every team and we are going into these games with plenty of confidence.

“If we can get a good result against Aston Villa, we can carry that into the fixtures after the international weekend.

“I’d say there is a lot more pressure on Villa to win this rather than us, given where they think they should be and where they’ve come from.

“We know what we need to do in the game, they have got some threats without question.

“Just because Villa are where they are in the division, doesn’t mean they haven’t got players who can hurt you.

“We will be aware of that and look to impose our game on them, play from our shape.

“When the fixtures came out, this was a game a lot of people were looking at.

“Villa have taken their full allocation so it should be a very good atmosphere.

“After tomorrow’s game, we will use the break to re-charge the batteries and do some work on the training pitch.

“Then we go into a difficult period of games on paper but why can’t we go and win these sorts of games and get points on the board?”

Grayson had two seasons as a Villa player in the late 1990s, while far more recently, Daniel Johnson and Callum Robinson were on Villa’s books.

Both are likely starters, with midfielder Johnson having scored in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with Birmingham, having earned a recall to the side.

Paul Gallagher’s fitness will be assessed after a deadleg suffered in the Wigan game sidelined him at Birmingham.

Jermaine Beckford is edging closer to a return after five weeks out with a strained hamstring.

A similar injury will rule Marnick Vermijl out tomorrow, although he should be back after the break.

Said Grayson: “Jermaine is making really good progress and he won’t be far off for tomorrow.

“If he misses out, I’d expect him back for when we start again at Brighton.

“Marnick is making progress too and he should be back after the break.

“We have got a strong squad when you consider that on Tuesday, we were without Jermaine, Marnick and Gally, while Tommy Spurr and Liam Grimshaw are just coming back after a bout of flu.

“Over the last few games, we’ve had players coming into the team and done a good job.

“DJ and Ben Pearson came back in at Birmingham and affected the game.”