Preston targeting home comforts to bolster Championship play-off push

Paul Huntington is set to return to the Preston side against Birmingham
Paul Huntington is set to return to the Preston side against Birmingham

Preston North End return to Deepdale tomorrow hoping they can reproduce some of their recent away form in front of the home faithful.

Alex Neil’s side have spent a considerable time on the road since Christmas, collecting five points from three league games as well as progressing in the FA Cup at Wycombe.

Their one home game in that spell was the New Year’s Day defeat to Middlesbrough, their only reverse since early November.

PNE have gathered one more point on their travels than they have at Deepdale and tomorrow’s clash with Birmingham is a chance to tip the balance the other way.

Although back in 10th place, they are only two points shy of the play-offs.

What would help North End really kick on would be putting together a run of wins, three on the spin last month the best sequence they have managed this season.

“We always go for the three points, we never go out for just the one,” said PNE boss Neil.

“Even at Millwall last week when we equalised late on, I’m pretty sure that was one of the first times Millwall at home had changed system and shape to see the game out.

“Right until the end we were pushing to win it and could have done so.

“We have added attackers to the squad to try and make us more potent at the top end of the pitch.

“Billy Bodin is going to take a little bit of time to settle with him coming to a new league.

“Louis Moult has had the issue with his hamstring but is not far away.

“Once we have him back, he is another good option at that end of the pitch.”

In terms of Moult being available to face Birmingham, Neil is playing a waiting game with the recent signing from Motherwell. Said the PNE boss: “Louis is not far away, we’ll see how it develops 
before the weekend.”

At the opposite end, Neil’s defensive options should be boosted by Paul Huntington returning to action.

The centre-half missed the Millwall game with a tight hamstring but has resumed training.

Huntington’s return would allow skipper Tom Clarke to switch to right-back.

But Darnell Fisher is not far off a return either, having been sidelined for a month with a hip injury.

With Josh Earl back in training too after a two-month absence, Neil is starting to get numbers back.

Tom Barkhuizen is likely to start, the winger having only been fit enough for the bench last week after being laid low by illness.

The attendance tomorrow will get a boost from a decent away following, Birmingham having sold more than 2,000 of their allocation earlier in the week.