PNE boss happy to face familiar foes

Eoin Doyle could start Preston's home clash with Bristol City tonight
Eoin Doyle could start Preston's home clash with Bristol City tonight
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Preston North End resume their rivalry with Bristol City tonight as they look to regain the winning formula which has deserted them of late.

The clubs were promotion rivals last season, with City going up as champions and the Lilywhites following them to the Championship through the play-offs.

Both are finding their feet at the higher level, PNE having lost their last three league games and the visitors their previous two.

After losing to Ipswich, Hull and Derby – clubs likely to be competing for promotion this term – Simon Grayson hopes the next batch of games are more of an ‘even keel’.

North End boss Grayson said: “We have had a tough run of games and this one won’t be any easier.

“We know what Bristol City are all about, they were worthy winners of the league last season and won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy too.

“They will know about us and it should be a good game tonight.

“We are going into a run of games where we are playing teams who we think are on an even keel with us in terms of standard of play, budget spent and expectation.

“The three teams we have lost to recently are teams who should be in the top six.

“Bristol City will be very much like ourselves and MK Dons, in that the first port of call is to make sure you are still in the division.

“They have kept the core of their squad, like we have done, as well as adding some players.

“At the end of the window they reinforced with a couple of centre-backs.”

Grayson will have to decide which of his strikers he will use to try and get the better of the Robins’ three-man defence.

Eoin Doyle and Stevie May staked their claim for a start after lively debuts as 55th-minute subs against Derby.

It was a year ago that Doyle scored a hat-trick for Chesterfield against North End in a 3-3 draw – the kind of form which was to earn him a big-money move to Cardiff in February.

That same game also saw a PNE debut for Callum Robinson, a player who will be in City’s squad this evening after last month’s loan switch from Aston Villa.

Preston will assess the fitness of Paul Gallagher ahead of the game, the midfielder having hurt a calf muscle in training on Friday morning.

He is rated as doubtful for tonight, with a return against Brentford on Saturday perhaps more realist ic.

Jordan Hugill and Kyel Reid again miss out with injuries suffered in the Lancashire Senior Cup last week.

On the recruitment front, Grayson says he enquired about bringing in a loan player at the end of last week.

“If someone becomes available who ticks the boxes, we will try to do something,” said Grayson. “We spoke to a Premier League club on Friday about a player but their decision did not go our way in terms of what we were trying to do.”

When doing business in this loan window, Grayson is mindful of the 93-day limit and the numbers of loan players.

He said: “It is another week or so before the 93 days takes you into the next window. But if it is a needs-must of getting someone, we will do it and look at the situation after that.

“Sometimes it might be a case of just doing a loan for a month because that is all that the other club allow.

“We also have to be mindful that we have four loan players at the moment – you can only have five in your 18 on a matchday.

“If we sign someone now that takes it up to five and then if we do need someone else because something has gone wrong, we are then in a position of having to leave out one of the squad. So we have to be careful.”