Derby’s the special one says PNE boss

Jermaine Beckford is in PNE's squad
Jermaine Beckford is in PNE's squad
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Simon Grayson is looking forward to a ‘special game’ as Preston North End pay a rare visit to local rivals Blackburn.

Tomorrow’s clash is only the fifth time in the last 37 years that PNE have met Rovers competitively at Ewood Park.

They will be roared on by a 7,000-strong away following in the Darwen End, tickets selling out more than a week ago.

North End boss Grayson said: “This is a special game – to have 7,000 away fans at any game is a fantastic effort.

“There are a lot of bigger clubs than us in this division who have not got anywhere near that size of allocation.

“As a team we have put on some decent performances when we have taken big followings.

“The derbies this season spring to mind, with us winning at Burnley and Bolton.

“We have to try and replicate those performances and results, give the supporters something to cheer about.

“There will be an electric atmosphere, as there was at Deepdale in November when Blackburn brought more than 5,000 fans.

“It just shows what this game means to a lot of people.”

Grayson has the right sort of selection issues to ponder ahead of the 12.30pm kick-off.

Joe Garner is available after a two-game ban, while Paul Huntington and Alan Browne have recovered from injuries which kept them out of action before the international break.

Both proved their fitness in a bounce game against Oldham at Springfields in midweek.

Jermaine Beckford found the net in that one as he strives for full sharpness after being out of action for six months following knee surgery.

Whether he is ready to start a game yet remains to be seen but a fortnight’s work since his late cameo against QPR has pushed him nearer.

Said Grayson: “We had a friendly against Oldham on Tuesday and Becks played another 60 minutes.

“He scored in that game and had another disallowed, so that will do his confidence good.

“We aren’t going to rush him back but I will do what I think is right for us and for him at the right time.

“Joe Garner is back, Eoin Doyle has scored in the last two games and I think Jordan Hugill has done well.

“But obviously Becks and Garner being back gives is some nice options.”

With Beckford also having found the net in an inter-squad practice game last week, he is clearly building up his fitness.

“In training, Becks is looking as sharp as I have seen him,” said Grayson.

“The only issue you have got is how long he could last if he starts the game.

“He is still considerably down on the endurance side.

“I don’t think that any player coming back after the length of time Becks has been out, will be able to last the full game this weekend or next weekend.

“Whether he starts or not in this game, or on Tuesday night or the following Saturday, all depends on the decisions of a few of us.

“But having him back has given everyone a boost.”