Friends reunited for PNE defender

Greg Cunningham (right) battling with Derby's Tom Ince
Greg Cunningham (right) battling with Derby's Tom Ince
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Greg Cunningham will go down the ‘normal game’ route when Preston North End host his former club Bristol City at Deepdale.

It is less than two months since the Irishman swapped one newly-promoted side for another.

Cunningham insists there is no added spice from his point of view in facing the Robins, for whom he made 107 appearances in three years.

His focus will be on trying to help the Lilywhites find their form after three league defeats on the bounce.

“I’m looking forward to it as I do any game I play, said Cunningham. “I will treat it like any other game with the aim to try and get the three points after the recent results we’ve had.

“I will be playing against lads who I have known well for the last couple of years.

“That bit might feel a bit strange but once you cross that white line, they will just be another opposition.

“I loved my time down there, met some great people and made plenty of great friends.

“There were ups and downs but I’m here now and enjoying the challenge of helping Preston settle into the Championship.”

Cunningham returned to action in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Derby after missing two games with a hamstring injury.

If there was a game to test if he was fully recovered, then Derby’s visit was it.

Not only did he have Tom Ince to attend to, the game lasted quarter-of-an-hour beyond the regulation 90 minutes due to the delay caused by Chris Baird’s head injury late in the second half.

Said Cunningham: “My hamstring tightened up in the Ipswich game, I came off then and missed the next two games.

“The international break then probably came at a good time for me and allowed me to fully recover without missing anymore games. The Derby game was a very good test for my fitness, it blew the cobwebs off.

“When you have a lengthy stoppage like that – I think it was 15 minutes – you have to keep moving and try and keep focused.

“The game did fizzle out a bit after the stoppage because we had their backs against the wall.

“Although we did score when play resumed, the sting went out of it.

“It was not nice to see Chris Baird down with 
what could have been a bad injury.

“We are all professionals, all in the same boat, and you don’t want to see any player down like that. Thankfully he is okay.”

Although Bristol City will offer a big threat, on paper at least, they fall into a different category than North End’s recent opposition.

Their three successive defeats have come against Ipswich, Hull and Derby, all teams who you suspect will challenge for promotion.

“We have played against some difficult teams of late but saying that, there are no easy games in this league,” said Cunningham. “Every game we play, we go into with an expectation of doing well.

“We have been competitive in the games we have lost, those coming against teams who should be fighting for promotion this season. We don’t go into games thinking we are not going to get anything or just thinking that a draw would do.

“Now we have got Bristol City who came up with us last season and that is a game we want to win.

“Even though we lost to Derby, there were plenty of positives to take from that game. Look at the chances we had – Joe Garner hit the post, Lee Grant had to make a great save from Eoin Doyle. It is great having Eoin and Stevie May – they will carry a big threat.

“They have looked sharp in training and I thought they showed what they can do when they came on against Derby.”

It might well be that Preston change system against City.

Should they change from a 3-5-2 to a flat back four, it is a switch Cunningham will be comfortable with.

“I played 3-5-2 at Bristol for a couple of years and have done similar here,” he said.

“When the gaffer changes to four at the back, I’m a natural left-back.”