PNE ready to climb the ladder

Preston North End will aim to climb another rung of the Championship ladder when they visit Cardiff tomorrow.

Friday, 26th February 2016, 5:00 am
Bailey Wright is set to start against Cardiff after being substituted at half-time in the midweek victory over Charlton

It is a battle of the division’s eighth and ninth-placed clubs, with the Bluebirds a point ahead of PNE.

Should the visitors manage a fifth win on the bounce, they would move above their hosts and bring the play-off places closer into view.

Simon Grayson is enjoying the task of keeping his side’s focus above them, rather than having to cast anxious looks over their shoulder.

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“Not so long ago, you probably wouldn’t have thought that this game would be eighth versus ninth,” said Lilywhites manager Grayson.

“By the same token when Derby played Blackburn on Wednesday night, we could have done with Blackburn beating Derby.

“A few months ago, you would have thought it would be the other way around.

“That is how football can quickly change – if you string a few wins together like we have done, they can push you along way up the table.

“We are not getting carried away with what we are doing, although we are enjoying it.

“When we were stuck in the bottom three we didn’t get too down about things and now we are in the top half, we won’t get beyond ourselves.

“We have 13 games to go and in every one of those we have to make sure we are right at it and well prepared.

“To be where we are is a fantastic position to be in.

“We will finish where we deserve to finish and enjoy what we are doing.”

Although a half-time change of system inspired North End to Tuesday night’s victory over Charlton, Grayson is likely to stick with the XI which has started the last three games.

Against the Addicks, Bailey Wright was replaced by Callum Robinson at the interval as they went from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.

The 3-5-2 has served PNE well on their travels though, the extra centre-back giving more solidity.

Eoin Doyle is unavailable for the trip to Wales, the terms of his loan preventing him facing parent club Cardiff.

A knee injury rules out Chris Kirkland, with Matt Hudson providing the keeper cover.

Paul Gallagher will again go through the pain barrier with a hernia.

While the plan was for him to have surgery once PNE were safe from the drop, their upwards push could see his operation delayed longer.

Said Grayson: “We will wait and see with Gally because you never know where the next few weeks might take us.

“He finds it difficult in the colder weather and getting going after half-time, that is just the nature of the injury.

“We have him provisionally booked for an operation, just as we had in January – a date which got cancelled.

“If we have to cancel this latest one because of how we are going, we will do that.”

Stevie May had surgery this week on knee ligament damage, the operation deemed a success. Two ligaments in his right knee needed repairing.