PNE's big game hunters

Joe Garner is set to make his 150th appearance for Preston tomorrowJoe Garner is set to make his 150th appearance for Preston tomorrow
Joe Garner is set to make his 150th appearance for Preston tomorrow
Simon Grayson believes the challenge of playing Middlesbrough in front of a bumper crowd can bring the best out of his Preston North End side.

The Lilywhites head to Teesside tomorrow to face a Boro side who have automatic promotion in their sights.

With Aitor Karanka’s side second in the table and having the division’s meanest defence, it looks a daunting trip to the Riverside Stadium.

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PNE will take heart, though, from a good record against the Championship’s top sides.

They have performed well in front of big crowds too, last week’s 2-1 victory at Blackburn a case in point.

North End boss Grayson said: “It doesn’t seem like two minutes since we played them on the opening day.

“We have come a long way since then and Middlesbrough have lived up to being one of the favourites for the division.

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“A few weeks ago it looked like there was a little bit of unrest there but they have got together again as a group and won three on the trot.

“We have to be disciplined, hard to beat but when we get the chance to play, make sure we do that.

“There will be a big crowd and atmosphere and we haven’t done too badly so far when that has been the case.

“We have won some big games away from home and there is the challenge for our lads of winning their battles against some talented players.

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“As a group, we have gone into every game this season with the mind-set we can win.

“We will look to cause Middlesbrough problems and get a result which will put a spanner in their promotion works. They have a lot of threats in their team, you look at the top end of the pitch and have Gaston Ramirez who is a Premier League footballer and Jordan Rhodes, who cost £10m.

“Albert Adomah, Stewart Downing, Adam Clayton and Grant Leadbitter are all very good players.”

Joe Garner is set to make his 150th appearance for Preston tomorrow and will be chasing a 50th goal in club colours.

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Grayson will have to make changes to the side which started both the Blackburn and Fulham matches.

Adam Reach is ineligible to play against his parent club and will be joined on the sidelines by Tom Clarke, who suffered a head injury in midweek.

Calum Woods (calf) and Jordan Hugill (ankle) will have their injuries assessed today.

If Hugill is ruled out, there are options to replace him in the shape of Eoin Doyle, Jermaine Beckford and Callum Robinson.

But it is at the back where PNE are tighter for numbers.

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Marnick Vermijl and Paul Huntington replaced Woods and Clarke during the Fulham game and can expect starts.

Said Grayson: “We will put a team together which is good enough to get a result.

“Hunts and Marnick have played a big part this season, with Hunts a mainstay of the defence, while Marnick has only been kept out by Calum’s good form. Whoever comes in will have to do a job.”