Jambos visit PNE with a taste for success

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson
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Preston North End’s friendly with Hearts on Saturday will be a clash of two promoted clubs.

The Jambos’ visit Deepdale as part of the build-up to their return to the Scottish top flight, awaiting them a PNE side preparing to tackle the Championship.

A decent travelling support will be backing Hearts, away ticket sales currently around the 1,300 mark.

This is North End’s only home friendly, a proposed game with David Moyes’ Real Sociedad falling through.

Simon Grayson will use the weekend clash to step up the amount of time on the pitch for some of his players.

Against Chorley and Bamber Bridge, he limited the outfield players – with the exception of Ben Davies and Josh Heaton at Brig – to 45 minute runs.

Some of the squad are likely to get an hour or so against a Hearts side who are further along the road in their 
pre-season preparations.

Their campaign starts with a visit to Arbroath in the Scottish League Cup on July 30, with them facing St Johnstone at Tynecastle in their Premiership opener on Sunday, August 2.

Hearts were away from the top flight for just one season, their relegation at the end of the 2013/14 campaign almost inevitable after a 15-points deduction for entering administration.

They bounced back in some style, winning the Scottish Championship title by a huge 21 points.

Edinburgh rivals Hibernian finished second but missed out on promotion after losing in the play-offs, a fate which also befell Rangers.

In charge of Hearts is Robbie Neilson, the former defender appointed head coach in May last year.

The 35-year-old stepped up from being the club’s Under-20s coach and his first season in charge could not have gone much better.

There have been some changes to his squad over the summer, skipper Danny Wilson leaving to join Rangers, while Scott Robinson, James Keatings and Brad McKay have all moved on to other clubs in Scotland.

Incoming deals have been done for Spanish striker Juanma, Gavin Reilly from Queen of the South and Blaze Augustyn who has joined from Polish club Gornik Zabrze.

Juanma was signed from Greek club Kalloni, the player buying out his contract.

He is unlikely to feature at Deepdale though, as he is nursing a slight groin strain.

Neilson rested a number of his more experienced players for Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to Stirling Albion in the Supporters Direct Scottish Cup but will bring them back to face North End.

Neilson said: “We left a lot of the first-team players behind just to rest them and get ready for the weekend down at Preston.

“I was disappointed to lose at Stirling but all in all it’s part of the season where we just want to try and get fit.”