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Wycombe FA Cup clash will be a battle for PNE

While there is a two-division gap between Wycombe and Preston, Alex Neil is aware that his Championship side are in for a real battle at the hands of their League Two hosts tomorrow.

The clubs meet in the FA Cup third round at Adams Park, with both going well in their respective divisions.

Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth.

Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth.

Wycombe occupy fourth place in the bottom tier, just a point off the automatic pace.

North End manager Neil said: “Their home record in particular is very good.

“I think Mansfield were the first team to beat them in six games at home recently.

“They are very direct, they have Adebayo Akinfenwa up top so they play the ball up to him and play off him.

Wycombe striker Adebayo Akinfenwa

Wycombe striker Adebayo Akinfenwa

“In effect they have three centre-forwards playing in their front line.

“That is kind of like us to a certain extent, they don’t play them as wingers as such, more as inside-forwards.

“Wycombe have had the second highest amount of crosses in the league, so we know what is coming.

“It is going to be a tough game physically, so we have to be ready for that.”

Larger-than-life striker Akinfenwa is the headline act for the Chairboys and for good reason.

His goalscoring record in recent seasons has been very impressive, having bagged 
13 goals in 27 matches this term.

Northampton, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon were all to benefit from Akinfenwa’s eye for a goal, so too the big physical presence he offers.

He joined Wycombe in July 2016 and has 31 goals to his name in their colours.

Said Neil: “Akinfenwa is a big lad, he will be flinging his body about.

“We have dealt with that type of player before – we know what is coming.”

Former North End winger Gareth Ainsworth has been in charge at Wycombe for more than five years, having taken up post in September 2012.

He’s had 290 matches at the helm and is the fourth longest-serving manager in England behind Arsene Wenger, Paul Tisdale at Exeter City and Morecambe’s Jim Bentley.

Until last week, ex-Preston goalkeeper Barry Richardson was on Ainsworth’s staff.

He served as goalkeeper coach and would also act as cover keeper if required.

Richardson called time on his three-year stay with the Chairboys in order to spend more time with his family who live in Lincoln.

Looking ahead to North End’s visit, Ainsworth said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to pit our wits against a Championship club and not just any Championship club.

“They were the club I made my senior debut for, I always remember getting the call on Friday night to go and make my debut at Shrewsbury the next day.

“I have great memories of my time at Preston, there is a real affinity with the club.

“But Wycombe is my club now and I want success here.

“It is an honour to have Preston at our ground but at 3pm, the level playing field comes into play and hopefully we can cause an upset.”