Cup run can be crucial again for PNE

Paul Huntington is a likely starter for PNE against Peterborough in the FA Cup
Paul Huntington is a likely starter for PNE against Peterborough in the FA Cup
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Simon Grayson wants Preston North End to supplement their Championship form with a run in the FA Cup.

They travel to London Road for a third-round date with Peterborough, who are managed by their former boss Graham Westley.

PNE reached the fifth round last year, a packed house at Deepdale seeing them bow out 3-1 to Manchester United.

Victory by the same score in the previous round at Sheffield United was the turning point of the season. Grayson, therefore, sees no reason why a run in the FA Cup for North End cannot go hand in hand with the job of establishing themselves in the Championship.

The fact that Westley will be in the opposition technical area is not an issue for the Lilywhites boss.

“People will look at the history of the previous manager but that is nothing to do with me,” said Grayson.

“It is about us trying to progress to the fourth round – that is where our focus is.

“My ambition is always to try and win the next game and on this occasion, it is the FA Cup.

“Last year, we ended up playing Manchester United and what a night that was.

“Our win over Sheffield United in the replay, in the previous round to that, was a catalyst for us last season.

“We had experienced a difficult January but then went to Sheffield and won to set up the Manchester game.

“The league form picked up and we ended up getting promoted. The biggest game is always the next one.”

Opponents Posh are League One’s top scorers and have pushed up the table since Westley’s arrival in September.

Four players remain in North End’s squad from his time in charge – Joe Garner, Paul Huntington, John Welsh, and Bailey Wright.

It is likely that a back injury will rule Wright out, with Huntington set to start in his place.

Reflecting on his 13 months in charge at Deepdale, Westley said: “I still believe I laid some solid foundations there.

“I didn’t do such a bad job and Preston are now reaping the rewards by winning promotion to the Championship and by performing well there.”

One of Westley’s last signings was Garner, and he added: “I signed Joe Garner for Preston and he’s done well.

“He’s an entertaining player – he certainly keeps referees entertained – and he’s a goal threat.”

North End will have Callum Robinson in the squad after the Aston Villa attacker joined on loan for a third time.

Grayson said: “It might be like when Callum first came last year, with us seeing how he is developing and him maybe coming off the bench a few times. We will see where his fitness is at.”

Meanwhile, PNE defender Ben Davies has joined Newport County on loan until February 13.