Draw specialists Preston North End aim to break habit with win against Stoke City says boss

Frankie McAvoy has his eye on three points tonight as draw specialists Preston North End host Stoke at Deepdale.
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McAvoy has a positive view of the run of four successive draws in the league which helps form PNE’s eight-game unbeaten sequence.

But turning the single points into three will help get them moving up the table.

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North End head coach McAvoy said: “It’s four draws now, three of them away.

Ali McCann will be pressing for a PNE start against Stoke City tonightAli McCann will be pressing for a PNE start against Stoke City tonight
Ali McCann will be pressing for a PNE start against Stoke City tonight

“If you spread that over a bit of time you can say that is not too bad – winning at home and drawing away is a good recipe to have.

“At the moment it is four games we haven’t won if you take a pessimistic view.

“I try and be the optimist, it’s four we haven’t been beaten in and we are eight unbeaten now.

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“We need to keep that rolling and the points will start to turn into three.

“Hopefully that will start against Stoke.”

McAvoy has named the same starting XI for the last five Championship games, stretching back to the win against Swansea in August.

That will change at some point, whether it is tonight or not remains to be seen.

McAvoy will not want to change things too much but the busy schedule of the past month might have him looking at his squad.

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The Scot said: “Different things lead to changes, injuries, people doing well off the bench. It’s about getting the balance right.

“I thought Ali McCann came on at Birmingham and was excellent again. You saw him the cup last week and could see he is ready and desperate to play.

“Josh Murphy is desperate to play, Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen will be, Scotty Sinclair, Liam Lindsay and Greg Cunningham.”

McAvoy being able to give a mention to Barkhuizen is good news for the winger.

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For the first time since the first game of the season he will be available for selection this evening, having now shaken off the effects of Covid.

It has taken a few weeks for him to recover fully, the fact Barkhuizen suffers from asthma slowing things down.

North End gave him time to build up his fitness in the gym before the 28-year-old returned to training with the squad last week.

Club captain Browne, who did not make the bench at the weekend, also comes into contention tonight.

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The midfielder has not really got going this season after a summer procedure on a hip injury, with him then having had a few knocks in recent weeks.

Centre-half Lindsay could be back in the squad against his former club, a knee injury he suffered against Cheltenham not proving as serious as first feared.