PNE boss wary of Rovers’ return

Blackburn defender Shane Duffy scored his side's winner against Brentford before the international break
Blackburn defender Shane Duffy scored his side's winner against Brentford before the international break
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Simon Grayson has noted Blackburn’s better home form as he prepares to take Preston to Ewood Park.

Rovers have won four of their last five league games in front of their own fans.

Fulham, MK Dons, Middlesbrough and Birmingham all left empty handed.

However, Leeds United won at Ewood last month to bring that run to a halt.

And also among the winning league run was a 5-1 defeat to West Ham in the FA Cup.

North End boss Grayson said: “This is a tough game for us but it’s a challenge we are looking forward to meeting.

“Blackburn have a good record at home, winning four out of the last five.

“They also had a good victory over Brentford on their travels the last time out.

“When you look at Paul Lambert’s squad, Blackburn have some good players.

“It was a good squad before Paul went in and he has since recruited Jordi Gomez, Matt Grimes and Danny Graham.

“They will be disappointed with where they are in the division, given the expectancy level at the club.

“But the Championship is a tough division and no one has the right to be in the top six, nor should anyone be written off as a bottom-three side.”

Ewood Park is familiar territory for Grayson – he was a Blackburn player for three years.

His son is in Rovers’ youth team and there are plenty of links between the clubs.

PNE keeper coach Alan Kelly had a spell with Rovers, while Paul Gallagher and Joe Garner started their careers in East Lancashire.

On the flip side, former Preston boss Alan Irvine and coach Rob Kelly are part of Lambert’s backroom staff at Rovers.

Blackburn players Chris Brown, Lee Williamson and Elliott Ward all previously had loan spells with North End.

Said Grayson: “There are quite a few connections with ourselves and Blackburn.

“My son Joe is a first-year apprentice there and playing in the youth team.

“I spend quite a bit of time there watching him play, while I had time as a player there.

“We had lads in our squad who have played for Blackburn.

“Alan Kelly played for them when I was there, while on their staff, Alan Irvine and Rob Kelly were here.

“Those connections will go out of the window at 12.30 on Saturday.

“Hopefully it is the Preston people who are celebrating later in the afternoon.”

Rovers will be without Grant Hanley against PNE, the centre-half having been sent off at Brentford before the international break.

Ward, who was at Preston for two months at the end of the 2009/10 campaign, is set to deputise in the back four.

He will be partnered by Shane Duffy who played for the Republic of Ireland last week.

The appearance in the 1-0 win over Switzerland was Duffy’s home debut for the Irish and came two years after getting his only other cap.

Said Duffy: “I enjoyed it, playing in front of Irish fans for the first time was enjoyable, and I had goosebumps out there. It was a day I’d dreamed of, 
and I’ve got it.

“I’m playing more regularly and consistently. I’ve matured as a centre-half.

“The more games you play, the better you get. I was quite raw two years ago, I still am, but I’m playing every week and I’m enjoying it.

“I’m delighted to come here, and just trying to impress the manager and the players.”

It was Duffy who scored Blackburn’s winner against Brentford last month.

After selling Jordan Rhodes to Middlesbrough for £9m in January, Rovers have turned to Danny Graham to lead their attack.

He joined on loan from Sunderland in the transfer window and has scored three goals to date.

Attacking midfielder Gomez made the same move a couple of weeks later and the former Wigan player has settled well.