Lilywhites in the limelight

Simon Grayson wants his Preston players to thrive in the intensity of tomorrow's FA Cup battle with Arsenal.

Friday, 6th January 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:01 pm
Simon Makienok is a likely starter against Arsenal tomorrow

Football’s spotlight will shine on a packed Deepdale for the 5.30pm kick-off as the Lilywhites try to cause an upset against the Gunners.

Grayson wants a high-tempo show from North End, a display which will leave no regrets in their minds come the final whistle.

With only three defeats in their last 17 league games, self-belief should certainly not be lacking from their play.

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“We have been playing well recently, the Sheffield Wednesday game saw one of our best performances of the season – apart from conceding the late goal,” said Grayson.

“The Burton game showed the character of the players – they put in a resilient display.

“Arsenal is a free game for us in a way, no one outside of Preston expects us to win.

“I want the players to go out and express themselves, enjoy the occasion, see where that takes us.

“This is an occasion when they can play against some world-class players.

“There is often a surprise in the third round of the FA Cup – hopefully it is us causing it.

“Players can thrive in big games and occasions.

“A couple of years ago we took the lead against Manchester United and the place was rocking.

“We’ve had a play-off semi-final and some big league games here since then.

“Players work hard to get to a certain level, some might not be able to get to the stage of playing Arsenal, United and Liverpool on a regular basis.

“So when an opportunity like this comes up, I will always tell players to enjoy it and have no regrets.

“I don’t want them at the end thinking, ‘I could have done this or done that’.

“I’m sure there will be some nerves beforehand but once they get out there, let’s see what we can do.

“We have got a chance, we are at home and have the crowd behind us.

“In our squad we have some talented players and we have shown against some big teams in the Championship that we can produce a performance.”

With Bailey Wright Bristol City-bound, Grayson has one less option at the back.

However, Alex Baptiste will return to the squad after being rested for the Burton game.

Simon Makienok, Aiden McGeady and Paul Gallagher, who were on the bench on Monday before joining the action in the latter stages, are likely starters.

Grayson did reference Makienok when it came to the subject of a physical approach to try and rattle Arsenal.

“We have got a 6ft 7ins centre-forward, so that might help,” said Grayson.

“In our squad we have players with heart and soul, who cover the distances, put the tackles in and put bodies in where it hurts.

“We aren’t the finished article – we’ve got a lot of young players who will get better.

“If we stand off Arsenal and let them play, we know what could happen.

“I’m pitting my wits against one of the best managers the Premier League has seen, so tactically I have to get my side of the equation right.”