Lilywhites aim to spoil the Magpies' promotion party

Preston's aim when they face Newcastle tonight will to avoid being the sideshow at a promotion party.
Tyias Browning returns to the squad after two months on the sidelinesTyias Browning returns to the squad after two months on the sidelines
Tyias Browning returns to the squad after two months on the sidelines

The Magpies would clinch a return to the Premier League if they beat North End at a packed St James’ Park.

But Simon Grayson’s men getting something out of the clash would put the Tyneside promotion party on hold.

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In recent years, North End have had to endure opponents celebrating at their expense.

Three years ago, Brentford were promoted from League One after beating them.

Rotherham’s win against PNE in the play-off semi-finals that same year sparked a pitch invasion.

At the other end of the scale, Crewe and Colchester both avoided relegation by beating Preston.

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After three defeats on the spin, North End could not have asked for a tougher test to halt the slide in form.

They dropped to 11th on Saturday, Brentford going above them.

With one of the main aims of the season to better last year’s 11th-place finish, points need to be found in the last three games.

“We don’t want the season to end on a damp squib,” said Grayson.

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“It is about maintaining the high standards we’ve got here, both in training and with our performances on the pitch.

“ We have to play these last three games like they are the first match of the season.”

Although the form has slipped in the last fortnight, Grayson thinks the season has been very good on the whole.

Hence he is demanding a late rally from the team.

Said Grayson: “We have had a fantastic season, we’ve played some fantastic stuff.

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“We’ve scored more goals than we did last season in a campaign when the level of football in the Championship has been far greater than it was before.”

Grayson’s squad is stretched for tonight’s game, suspensions for Ben Pearson and Alex Baptiste adding to season-ending injuries to Tom Clarke and Greg Cunningham.

But he will be able to add Tyias Browning to the group, the defender back in the frame after two months out with a knee injury.

Grayson said: “We’ve been hit in particular in defence, while Ben Pearson is out too.

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“Tyias has trained with us for a week, we had an in-house game on Thursday which gave us the chance to get some 11-a-side football in him.”

PNE’s last visit to St James’ Park ended in a 6-0 defeat in the ELF Cup.

Five of the starting XI in that October clash have since left the club, either on loan or permanently.

It could be that of the side that night, only Tommy Spurr, Paul Huntington and Alan Browne start this evening’s game.