Robins warning from PNE boss

Swindon top scorer Andy Williams with Fleetwood's Mark Roberts

Swindon top scorer Andy Williams with Fleetwood's Mark Roberts

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Swindon might well have turned their attention ahead to the play-offs but Simon Grayson believes they will still present a big test to Preston at Deepdale this weekend.

After being in contention for automatic promotion all season, a dip in form of late has effectively consigned them to the play-offs.

With that in mind, Robins manager Mark Cooper has been resting one or two key players to ensure they are fresh for the end-of-season knockout.

North End boss Grayson has been impressed with the Wiltshire outfit this term, hence the warning to his side to be on their guard in this vital clash.

“Swindon have had a fantastic season,” said Grayson.

“They have got some very good players and play a certain style which is testimony to Mark, in how he has kept that going all season – he has never changed his beliefs.

“This is a tough game for us, this isn’t a game which is a given.

“We are playing fourth in the table who have been up there for large parts, and at one stage looked like they were in prime position to get automatic promotion.

“Results recently have affected them.

“They play a certain way where they pass it and move, and they play with a lot of freedom about them.

“This might be a game where they have more possession than us and we have got to be patient.

“That is what they do in every game, they sometimes end up with six players in midfield playing a 3-6-1.

“I have not seen that formation too often but they have come up with a system to help them out.

“We will have to be patient but also play with an intensity with and without the ball, have a purpose about us.

“While we are talking about them, they will be aware of what we have in our squad.

“They will see Jermaine Beckford and Joe Garner on the team sheet, players who are on fire and performing very well.”

Swindon’s form has dropped off since Easter, enough to leave an automatic promotion slot out of reach bar a massive twist.

They lost both Easter games 3-0 – at home to MK Dons and away at Bristol City.

In fairness, many observers felt the scoreline in the West Country derby with City was harsh on them, bearing in mind the balance of play.

Cooper’s men bounced back with wins over Peterborough and Rochdale.

But a shock 1-0 home loss to Yeovil last Saturday was followed by Tuesday night’s 3-3 draw with Walsall.

With the shape of the table being the way it is, Swindon are assured of being at home in the second leg of the play-offs.

So with position jostling not needed, Cooper is saving legs for next month.

Midfielder Massimo Luongo, a team-mate of Bailey Wright in the Australia squad, was on the bench in midweek and will not be involved at Deepdale as he allows a groin injury to mend.

Others could be rested but Cooper has to bear in mind the size of his squad.

“Massimo won’t be available because we are getting that right,” Cooper said.

“He’ll be fine for Colchester on Tuesday night, we’ve got that game in mind as the one Massimo is going to play before the play-offs.

“We just want his groin to heal 100 per cent because there is no point in us risking him but obviously the closer we get to the play-offs we need to be putting people on the pitch that are going to start.

“We would like to rest all of them if we could, but the size of our squad dictates that it is not possible.

“Wes Foderingham is still a little bit sore with his hip. There are a few but we can’t rest them all because we haven’t got enough players.” Andy Williams is Swindon’s top scorer this season with 21 goals – 20 of them in the league and one in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

The former Yeovil striker is likely to be partnered up front by Jonathan Obika – scorer of eight goals – against the Lilywhites.

There could be a start in the centre of midfield for Anton Rodgers, the son of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.