PNE’s Kevin Davies eyes old pals’ axe

Blades fan: Kevin Davies faces his boyhood team this evening
Blades fan: Kevin Davies faces his boyhood team this evening
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Kevin Davies might have been brought up as a Sheffield United supporter, but tonight the Preston North End striker will be doing everything possible to see them leave Deepdale empty-handed.

It’s Monday night football for North End and the Blades, the Sky Sports cameras in attendance for League One’s fourth versus tenth battle.

For 36-year-old Davies, it is a fixture which stood out on the calender because United were his boyhood favourites.

But the game has taken on extra significance with North End in need of the three points to try and claw back ground on the sides above them in the battle for automatic promotion.

The visitors are also looking upwards, eyeing a late run into the play-offs on the back of seven consecutive league wins and three more in the FA Cup.

Davies said: “I watched Sheffield United as a kid.

“I grew up on a big estate about a mile up the road from Bramall Lane.

“My older brother was a Blade, my dad was an Owl, and my brother got hold of me first!

“We didn’t have a car so it was easier to walk to Bramall Lane rather than travel across the city to watch Sheffield Wednesday.

“I was a junior Blade when I was eight or nine, standing on the Kop to watch players like Brian Deane and Tony Agana.

“I’ve not been back to watch them as a fan for a long time now, but I have always enjoyed going back to Bramall Lane as a player.

“We got a fantastic win there earlier in the season when Stuart Beavon scored.

“A lot of things have changed since then, with Sheffield United having got a lot stronger.

“They have developed a lot of confidence and momentum which they will be bringing to Deepdale, so we have to make sure that we are really switched on.

“We have different ways of winning games – we can slug it out or play some good football – and it is just about making sure we get the three points.

“It’s on television, under the floodlights, and it is a game which we are all really looking forward to.

“You can’t help but be impressed by Sheffield United’s form in the last couple of months.

“Their run in the FA Cup has helped the league form and the finances gained from the cup have helped them strengthen the squad.

“Nigel Clough was on my A Licence course last summer, he’s a fantastic manager and coach.

“It probably hurt him to leave Derby earlier in the season but he has gone in there at United and they come here having won their last 10 games.

“As well as the FA Cup, they will have one eye on the play-offs, so we will have to be at our best.”

Davies will be hoping to hang on to his place in the North End attack this evening, having been recalled for last Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Stevenage.

That was only his third start since being sent-off in the clash with Coventry in January.

Reflecting on the Stevenage game which saw PNE pegged back by a stoppage-time equaliser, Davies said: “We have had that feeling of dropping points late on too many times.

“It wasn’t a great game at Stevenage, there weren’t too many chances.

“We got our noses in front and felt comfortable for long periods.

“Clearly it was a case of two points dropped and we are making life hard for ourselves.

“But we still think that we can push for one of those top two places, we just have to try and take advantage if someone slips up.”

Davies is philosophical when looking at Preston’s current standing in fourth place.

The former England international said: “The expectation when I arrived and why I signed was to get out of this league.

“We are in fourth place but certainly feel we have a squad good enough for an automatic place.

“By being in fourth place we are not under-achieving because of where the club has been recently.

“The aim at the start of the season was play-offs minimum, and that is where we are at the moment.

“We are good enough to push the three clubs above us all the way.

“If we do end up in the play-offs, I think we will have a really good chance because we are difficult to beat.

“There is a good mixture in the squad of youth, experience and a desire to win games.

“When you look at the teams above us, I’m not surprised by Wolves being top. I think they will probably go up as champions.

“If we could get second behind Wolves then we would be delighted.

“Brentford have stayed up there and done well, and I suppose you would say Leyton Orient are the surprise team because their squad is not the biggest.

“But over the course of the season they have kept on getting results.

“It is all to play for up there, teams will drop points and we’re not out of it.”