PNE Hunting for a big scalp

Preston North End will look to put the spanner in the works of another promotion-chasing side when they host Brighton at Deepdale tomorrow.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 4th March 2016, 5:00 am
Paul Huntington could retain his place in PNE's back three tomorrow
Paul Huntington could retain his place in PNE's back three tomorrow

Simon Grayson’s men have beaten three of the current top six – Burnley, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday – and being able to add the Seagulls to that list would strengthen their own position just outside the play-off pack.

They have certainly enjoyed their ‘underdogs’ tag this term and Lilywhites boss Grayson thinks that term applies to them against Brighton who are fourth in the Championship.

Grayson said: “If you are playing teams who, on paper, have better players, you want to stand up and be counted.

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“As an individual, you want to come out on top of your battle with the player you’re up against and add that to the team collective.

“There is an extra vibe in the ground when you play a team above you in the table.

“We saw that two weeks ago in the Sheffield Wednesday game, with top players on show and a top crowd.

“Players respond to that, the adrenaline flows even more than it would in some games.

“If we can beat sides who are above us in the league, it is a feather in our cap.

“Our players have certainly been disciplined in the games we have played at Deepdale.

“We have always said that if you are not focused and at your best against the better sides, you can get embarrassed.

“Brighton will be favourites for this game. It should be a good atmosphere, we’ve got to do the right things and not go away from the things which have served us so well over the last few months.

“This is a big test for us and it should be a good game.”

Grayson will have to weigh up whether to stick with the same 3-5-2 shape which has started the last four games with, or tweak it tomorrow.

In the last two matches, he switched to 4-3-3 at half-time, sacrificing a central defender in order to introduce Callum Robinson off the bench.

Paul Huntington was the man to make way at Cardiff last week but will regain his place if North End go with the extra centre-back.

For Robinson to be included from the start, it would need a change to a flat back four.

Said Grayson: “Callum has made a great impact from the bench in the last two games.

“It will depend on the system we play as to whether he starts tomorrow.

“Callum gives us something different when we switch to a 4-3-3. Within a 3-5-2, he could play in the No.10 role which Adam Reach has been in.

“Reachy having played so well there does narrow down Callum’s opportunities.”

Grayson regards Brighton as genuine contenders for a top-two slot.

“They have a strong squad and it is not bad when you have James Wilson from Manchester United sat on the bench,” said Grayson.

“Last summer Brighton recruited well and in January, they topped the squad up impressively with Anthony Knockaert and Jiri Skalak.”