PNE want a bunch of fivers

Scott Wiseman is on stand-by to replace Tom Clarke in the PNE side
Scott Wiseman is on stand-by to replace Tom Clarke in the PNE side
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Preston North End will target a fifth successive league victory in the derby trip to Oldham Athletic tomorrow in order to stay at the heart of a very competitive promotion battle.

A fruitful February has been in total contrast to January when crucial league points were squandered.

The month started with the FA Cup replay win over Sheffield United which was the spark for their improved form in League One.

Victories over Coventry, Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Walsall have followed, while Manchester United were run close in the cup.

Three points at Boundary Park in front of a sizeable away following would be a satisfying way to round February off.

North End manager Simon Grayson said: “We are doing okay but aren’t getting carried away with ourselves.

“A month ago at the end of January it was all doom and gloom.

“We are now coming to the end of February and things have turned around with four league wins on the trot and four clean sheets.

“It has been a good month and credit also to those clubs above and around us – I’m including Sheffield United in that list.

“It is going to be a fight until the end of the season, teams will pick points up, drop them and getting over the line in late April and early May will be all about being the most consistent.”

Grayson’s main injury worry for the weekend is his skipper Tom Clarke, who took a nasty bang to the head in Tuesday’s win over Walsall.

A decision over whether the defender plays will be left to the club’s medical staff.

If Clarke does not make it, Scott Wiseman is likely to step into the team.

The Gibraltar international replaced Clarke in the Walsall game in a like-for-like swap at right-back.

Jermaine Beckford could return to the squad for the first time since mid-January.

He was laid low by a severe inner ear infection but has been back in training for the last 10 days or so.

Tomorrow’s hosts will have Dean Holden in caretaker charge after Lee Johnson’s departure to Barnsley.

Grayson admits he may have to do some second guessing in terms of Holden’s approach but his main focus will be on what Preston do.

“There might be a change of personnel or system, I don’t know,” said Grayson.

“Dean Holden might want to implement his own ideas.

“It is about what we do, if we perform like we have been doing we can win because we have good players.”

PNE did two pieces of loan business yesterday, with Jamie Jones and Jordan Hugill on the move to Rochdale and Tranmere respectively.

Jones has gone to Rochdale for the rest of the season, just five days after his returning from a month with Coventry.

Hugill’s 28-day loan is designed to give the young striker match fitness following knee cartilage surgery which he underwent in September.