Paul Huntington says the incentive of climbing a place in the Championship table is a big one for Preston North End when they face Birmingham City.
A victory at St Andrew’s would see PNE leapfrog the Blues and help them put the disappointing second-half show against MK Dons firmly behind them.
Simon Grayson’s men head to the West Midlands two points behind their hosts and determined to seek out their first win since beating Blackburn earlier this month.
In the meantime, they have lost to Fulham and Middlesbrough, then let a lead slip in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with MK Dons.
Centre-half Huntington said: “We had a chance to go above Birmingham at the weekend but unfortunately we didn’t manage to do that.
“We have got four good games to go and those give us a chance to cement a place in the top 10 or go up to ninth or even eighth.
“Our aim is try and catch as many teams as we can, and build on that for next season.
“Birmingham are a good side and have some very good attacking players.
“There is the incentive to go above them and also pull away from the teams just below us in the table.
“It is a tough game but the manager will be looking for a good reaction from the group after what happened against MK Dons on Saturday.”
A decent first-half show gave way to a poor second period against Karl Robinson’s men.
To compound matters, a late chance to win the game was squandered when Joe Garner saw a penalty saved by stand-in keeper Alex Revell.
Striker Revell had been forced go in goal after keeper Cody Cropper was sent off for bringing down Eoin Doyle.
Said Huntington: “To start with the positives from that game, I thought the first-half was good and we could have been more than one goal up by half-time.
“We just didn’t get the second goal which we probably needed to make things more comfortable.
“In the second half we started sloppily and MK Dons grew in confidence.
“Late in the game we still had a couple of chances which I would have expected us to take.
“It was disappointing the way we played in the second half – we dropped below the standards we have set for ourselves this season.
“Half-time probably came at a good time for MK Dons.
“They were able to re-group and their manager would have been saying they were still in it and it was only one goal which they needed.
“We came in thinking we had to get the second goal when it should have been a lot more comfortable.
“It was a bit flat in the second half but at least we have the Birmingham game now to react to it.
“A big thing for us at the weekend was having Jermaine Beckford in the side.
“We have missed him for three-quarters of the season so to have him back is a massive boost.
“Jermaine scored a good goal and played 65 minutes, which shows his fitness is improving.
“Hopefully he can score a few more for us before the season finishes.”
Huntington does not think recent results have been down to PNE’s intensity levels dropping. “When you look at the last three games, we have come up against sides who are desperate for points at either end of the table,” said Huntington.
“MK Dons knew that a draw was probably not enough for them and even when they went down to 10 men, were throwing bodies forward.
“I don’t think intensity or a drop in it, played a part in the recent results.
“Whoever we play, whatever league position we are in, we want to go out and win.
“For some reason, our performance wasn’t good enough on Saturday and we need to put that right against Birmingham.”
In December, North End and Birmingham shared a 1-1 draw at Deepdale.
Adam Reach opened the scoring, Blues skipper Michael Morrison levelling in the second half.
Huntington said: “In the game at Deepdale before Christmas, Jordan Pickford made some very good saves.
“Jordan was a big part of what we did earlier in the season.
“Birmingham have not been far off the play-offs all season, often around seventh or eighth place.
“It is another tough game for us but with a bit more energy throughout the side, we can get a positive result.”