Unpredictable Canaries can leapfrog PNE with a victory

Marnick Vermijl is expected to recover from cramp to face Norwich City
Marnick Vermijl is expected to recover from cramp to face Norwich City

Simon Grayson has warned his Preston North End side to expect the unexpected when Norwich City visit Deepdale today.

The Canaries’ form is up and down with former Lilywhites boss Alan Irvine in caretaker charge as he guides the Carrow Road club through a period of transition.

The highlight of that run was a stunning 7-1 win over play-off contenders Reading earlier this month, six of the goals coming in a crazy first half.

But Norwich have lost three of their last four, going down to Aston Villa, Huddersfield and most recently Fulham, 3-1 on Good Friday.

It all leaves them 10th in the table, a point and a place behind North End ahead of today’s clash.

“Norwich are a team that have underachieved again,” said Grayson, whose Lilywhites have lost just one in 13 on home soil.

“They had a fantastic result against Reading but then they lost on Friday.

“Who knows what type of Norwich team is going to turn up?

“It’s about us though and what we do.

“We want to try and keep our really strong home form going and get three points to keep finishing strongly at the end of the season.”

The play-offs are all but out of reach for PNE, the controversial late 3-2 defeat to Huddersfield last time out leaving Grayson’s side 11 points shy of the top six with four games to play.

The meeting with the Canaries however is one that could go a long way to deciding the final placings for the best of the rest in the Championship.

“We’re not going to give up on the play-offs but it’s going to be very, very difficult,” said Grayson.

“It was always a slim chance heading into the weekend with the games that we’ve got coming up.

“All we’ve wanted to do, whether it’s getting into the play-offs or not, is make sure that we finish the season in a positive manner and finish as high as possible and hopefully in front of the 11th place we managed last year.”

The North End boss has plenty to ponder when it comes to team selection against the Canaries.

Captain Tom Clarke is set to miss the rest of the season and longer after injuring his Achilles tendon against his former club on Good Friday.

Ben Pearson also picked up his 15th booking of the season meaning a three-game ban, the midfielder joining Alex Baptiste on the naughty step as he still has two matches of his suspension to serve.

Marnick Vermijl is expected to be fit however after being replaced late on at the John Smith’s Stadium with cramp while Everton loanee Tyias Browning is also back in training having not featured since the goalless draw at Wigan back in February due to a knee injury.

“We’ve still got a decent squad,” said Grayson.

“Pearson is out now for three matches and Tom will be out but Marnick should be okay after a bit of cramp.

“We’ve still got good players available and Tyias Browning is back in training.

“Norwich might be too early for him but he’ll hopefully be back for the Newcastle game which is a nice boost.

“Baps is out for another two games as well though.

“We had to patch things up at Huddersfield but we were comfortable.

“We’ve got adaptable players and I’m sure whoever comes in against Norwich will do a decent job for us.”

Tommy Spurr is one player likely to come into the reckoning, the versatile defender having replaced Clarke just after the quarter hour at Huddersfield for his first outing since the beginning of March.

“Tommy’s never let us down when he’s come into the team,” said Grayson.

“Whether it’s centre half, left back, left wing back, he does a good, honest job for you.

“That’s what we’ve got within the group.”