PNE await big night

Paul Gallagher is the FA Cup's joint leading scorer this term with five goals
Paul Gallagher is the FA Cup's joint leading scorer this term with five goals
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The football world will have its eyes trained on a packed Deepdale tonight as Preston and Manchester United do battle in a competitive game for the first time in 43 years.

It is a 21,300 sell-out with millions more watching live on BBC1, the fifth-round clash set to land PNE £500,000.

North End will be bidding to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1966, a year ironically when they met United at that stage of the famous old competition.

They will be in the draw for the next round whatever the outcome as it is being made by Brian Finney and Roy Hodgson before kick-off.

United, third in the Premier League, come to Lancashire with a squad which cost vast sums to put together.

The side which started last week’s win over Burnley was worth more than £180m in transfer and loan fees alone – added to that was £110m worth of talent on the bench.

In contrast, the PNE squad on duty tonight have not cost a penny in transfer fees.

Lilywhites manager Simon Grayson thinks he has got the right blend of experience heads and younger legs to test out Louis van Gaal’s side.

Whatever their age and level of experience, he wants his players to keep a strong focus and not let their minds wander to the size of the occasion.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “We need the experience we have as well as the younger lads who have not got any fear and will just go out and play.

“We need level-headed performances from everyone and have to try and approach it as a normal game.

“I don’t want players going around being starstuck, wanting autographs and shirts.

“From the beginning in the FA Cup it was always the aim to go as far as possible and see what that brought us.

“The first aim was to get through to the third round when the big-hitters come in, hence why we did not take Havant or Shrewsbury lightly.

“When we got Sheffield United in the fourth round we thought we might have the opportunity to get into the fifth round and here we are.

“This will be a fantastic night and I just hope the players can do themselves justice.

“It would be lovely to put on a performance in particular for the fans who have been with us regularly, travelled to places like Yeovil and Crawley.

“They have seen some dark days at Deepdale over the last few years with relegation.

“Hopefully we will put in a performance and get a result for those who have spent a lot of money, time and effort following us around.”

Grayson is without cup-tied pair Daniel Johnson and Sam Johnstone but he can call upon Callum Robinson after his belated return to Deepdale on loan from Aston Villa.

While the loan deal was done a fortnight ago, a hamstring strain meant he only started training last Thursday.

Thorsten Stuckmann takes over from Johnstone.

Paul Gallagher will be looking to continue his good scoring record in the FA Cup.

He was the competition’s leading scorer with five goals until Jon Stead and Saido Berahino drew level with him over the weekend.