We can test Blades says PNE boss

Simon Grayson on the touchline at Stevenage
Simon Grayson on the touchline at Stevenage
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Preston North End boss Simon Grayson is looking forward to sinking his teeth into the challenge of facing FA Cup semi-finalists Sheffield United on Monday night.

The Blades have undergone a transformation in fortunes over the last few weeks.

Their form in the league since the start of February has rocketed them up the table, turning the threat of relegation into a potential crack at the play-offs.

And Nigel Clough’s men have a Wembley date with Hull City next month after reaching the last four of the FA Cup.

They cross the Pennines to play at Deepdale in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday evening, Grayson seeing it as a great test for North End to bounce back from the disappointment of only drawing with Stevenage in midweek.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “Sheffield United are on a fantastic run and we know we are going to be in for a tough game.

“It is the next game for us and a great one in which to try and get back to winning ways.

“We have had them watched three or four times over the last few weeks.

“They have done ever so well in games and have some good players in their squad.

“Sheffield United are the form team in the division and are in the FA Cup semi-finals too.

“It will be a difficult game but it is one which we are looking forward, especially with it being back at Deepdale and in front of the Sky cameras.”

While PNE’s automatic promotion hopes took a knock in the 1-1 draw at Stevenage, Grayson refuses to lose heart with their chances of making the top two.

Leaders Wolves are eight points clear of them and look set fair to make a swift return to the Championship.

Second-placed Leyton Orient have a six-point lead over Grayson’s men and Brentford are five points ahead. On Saturday lunchtime, Orient host Brentford in a live Sky game, so points will be dropped by one of the London sides, if not both.

Said Grayson: “Automatic promotion is still there to play for because of the number of games which are left.

“We still have some crucial games left against teams in and around us, so if we keep picking up points then we will close the gap.

“Teams are still going to drop points from now until the end of the season, that I can guarantee.

“All we want to do is keep picking up results, and I can’t think of a better way of getting back on it after the disappointment of Stevenage, than with a tough game against Sheffield United.

“Playing on Monday means the lads can get a bit of rest and also have the time on the training pitch.”