Grayson challenges PNE to end Villa's home run

Preston will aim to become the first team to win on Aston Villa's home turf this season when they head to the West Midlands tomorrow.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 5:00 am
Tommy Spurr (above) will replace the suspended Greg Cunningham in PNE's trip to Aston Villa

While Villa have struggled to adjust to the demands of the Championship after dropping out of the Premier League, their form has been strong at Villa Park.

Their 12 games have seen six wins and six draws but North End’s 2,700 travelling fans will be hoping to enjoy a successful away day.

PNE boss Simon Grayson, a former Villa player, said: “The big teams coming down from the Premier League and the ones which people look at in terms of the big stadium, the players and the budget – teams see it as a feather in their cap if they get a result against 

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“Villa Park is a great place to go, a great arena to play at and we go there with the aim of getting three points.

“Villa are unbeaten at home but we aren’t short of confidence, having beaten the then-league leaders last week.

“We know it is going to be tough and that they have some really talented players.

“But we are also aware that Villa are not playing to their full capabilities.”

North End will be without suspended pair Ben Pearson and Greg Cunningham.

Pearson serves the second of a two-game ban for getting 10 yellow cards, the same fate befalling Cunningham in last week’s win over Brighton.

Cunningham’s left-back role will go to Tommy Spurr, this a rare start for the former Blackburn defender.

Daniel Johnson is back in the fold after recovering from a virus which kept him out of the Brighton game.

There is a possible return to the squad for striker 
Jermaine Beckford after he completed a four-game ban.

Andy Boyle is likely to be on the bench as defensive cover after his switch from Dundalk.

With the transfer 
window closing at the end of the month, Grayson says it is a possibility that he might try to add a defender to the squad.

As for PNE’s interest in Robbie Keane and a link with Bournemouth striker Lewis Grabban, the Deepdale boss was not giving too much away.

Said Grayson: “With Keane, I’m not going to dismiss it but I’m not going to say it’s full on.

“Robbie Keane is a player who is going to attract a lot of interest from a lot of clubs.

“Would I be interested? Every club in this division would love the opportunity to speak to him.

“If we are being linked with players like that, I think it shows where we are at as a football club.”

Asked about the link with Grabban, Grayson said: “He falls into the same category.

“He is at another club and earning a lot of money. It is nice to be linked with this sort of player.”