Cunningham backs PNE to bounce back for second time
Greg Cunningham believes Preston North End's squad will show exactly what they're made of in their return clash with Newcastle United.
PNE host the Magpies at Deepdale this Saturday on the back of a 6-0 thrashing in the EFL Cup at St James’ Park on Tuesday night.
It is the second time Simon Grayson’s men have been humbled this season after the 5-0 reverse at Brentford six weeks ago.
That result sparked an upturn in North End’s fortunes, Preston going on a seven-game unbeaten stretch before the 90 minutes to forget in the North East.
Cunningham, who was rested against Rafa Benitez’s Championship promotion favourites and current league leaders but played at Brentford, believes the same can happen again.
“It’s how you bounce back and react that defines what we have in that dressing room,” he said.
“You saw after Brentford we weren’t happy at all.
“There was a bit of naivety on our part in the last 10 or 15 minutes but we bounced back and we showed on a great run of form what we’re more than capable of doing.
“We’re looking to do that on Saturday and keep our league form going.”
Grayson made nine changes for the league cup exit but despite being one of the players not involved, Cunningham believes there will be an element of revenge in mind for the PNE players.
“We’re happy in the sense that we play them again soon,” said the Irishman.
“With the result, regardless of who was playing and who wasn’t involved, we do want to bounce back and seek revenge as such at home in front of our home crowd at the weekend.
“We wanted to go there and be competitive and get through to the next round.
“That didn’t happen but now we’re playing them again and it’s still fresh in our minds and we want to make sure we give a good performance and a good account of ourselves because we know we’re more than capable of beating a team of that stature.”
North End have proven just that in recent weeks, seeing off fellow relegated clubs Aston Villa and Norwich as part of a fine October in the Championship.
“They’re massive teams (Newcastle included),” said Cunningham.
“I’m sure they’ll feel they shouldn’t be in this league and should be pushing to get back into the Premier League.
“It’s a great marker for us to show where we’re at.
“You look at the following Villa brought and we obviously ended up doing them 2-0 at home which was great.
“There are some top teams in this division.”
The game against Newcastle is the last in a run against the Championship’s top four where North End have proved what they can do against the best in the second tier, also picking up a draw at Brighton and a win over Huddersfield at Deepdale.
“It was always going to be a tough month,” said Cunningham.
“There’s no easy games in this league, it’s probably one of the most competitive Championships in a long while but you look at the fixtures we’ve had, they’ve been against the top teams and we’ve done well.
“We know what we’re capable of doing in the dressing room and we’re glad we’ve been able to prove that.
“We now look towards Saturday and hope to continue our good run in the league.”
After a slow start that upturn in Championship form means PNE head into the game in ninth in the table.
Cunningham knows however that Grayson’s side can’t rest on their laurels.
“Confidence is flowing,” he said.
“Tuesday night was a bit of a blip and we’ve talked about it and parked that up.
“We have been in great form and there’s a great atmosphere around the place.
“We’re up to ninth now and we want to keep pushing on.
“It’s still very tight and with one or two poor results we could slip down the table again.
“We need to make sure no complacency sets in and that our standards remain high.
“Results and performances have been good bar one or two blips so far this season.
“In some games we haven’t got the results we’ve deserved but recently again with the odd exception we’ve been getting what we deserved.”
Another big crowd is expected at Deepdale as more than 5,500 Newcastle fans make the trip to Lancashire.
The same happened when Villa came to town at the start of the month with PNE now targeting a fifth straight home win.
“No matter who we play we always seem like we’re upsetting the odds but in house we know what we’re more than capable of doing,” said Cunningham.
“With the size of Newcastle they should be in the Premier League and that’s what they’re aiming to do this season.
“I think they’ve sold out their allocation.
“There’ll be a great crowd like there always is at Deepdale so hopefully we can get off to a good start and get the crowd buzzing like they’ve been all season for us.”