Manager Simon Grayson believes the Lilywhites’ weekend clash with league leaders Leyton Orient is the biggest game in the country this Saturday.
North End, currently lying in fourth, head to the capital to face Russell Slade’s side, in an attempt to inflict the O’s’ first league defeat on their own patch and with no Premier League or Championship this weekend, the media will be focused on the Matchroom Stadium.
“It’s a great game,” the gaffer said at his pre-match press conference. “With all the international games it is probably the biggest game in the country this Saturday.
“There will be a lot of media interest, a great atmosphere and it is a chance for our players to go down there, put on a performance and hopefully get the right result.
“Orient will know they have a difficult game ahead of them, but so do we.
“They’ve had a magnificent start; they’ve got some good players, playing with a lot of confidence and I think it has a lot of ingredients to be a great game and hopefully we can be the first team to go down there and beat them on their own patch.
“It’s a bit different when you go away from home, because people don’t put men behind the ball, like they do at Deepdale, but you still have to be resilient and cause problems to the opposition and this weekend has the hallmarks of being a great game.”
The manager has plenty of selection dilemmas this weekend, but mostly good ones: “Chris Humphrey is available; he was called up by Jamaica, but then they released all their European players,” he continued. “Iain Hume has pulled out of the Canadian squad, so he is available as well, so we have an almost full squad to choose from other than Stuart Beavon’s suspension and Will Hayhurst away with the Republic of Ireland.
“We have said to the players; if you are given an opportunity, make sure you are ready and then do well and give yourself the opportunity to stay in the team.
“Lee Holmes had been on the periphery of things in the last few weeks, but he took his chance and really affected the game [against Barnet]; Joe Garner got two goals and these players , when they’ve been on the bench, have been told they will get their opportunities and they have to take it when it comes along.
“In this division Lee is one of the best wingers around; he can go outside, inside and he has good delivery and when we came in last season he was probably our best player; a creative spark that we needed and he has a goal in him.
“I spoke to him over the past few weeks and told him that he probably needs to be a little bit more ruthless in that final third; get the ball in early and shoot quicker and he has worked hard on the training pitch and we need players like Lee to be ready to come into the team and he did well last weekend.
“We also have Jeffrey Monakana back with us. Jeffrey’s reports are that he has done okay and we want to give him an opportunity to show what he can do with us again.
“He has to grasp the opportunity to impact games on a regular basis. He needs sustain his performances for 90 minutes. He has raw talent and he has to make sure he does everything else to make himself a footballer.
“As a manager you need someone who is going to do a job for team and hopefully the penny has dropped that he needs to knuckle down to be part of it.”
Some of the main media interest this weekend comes for the Clarke family, with PNE’s Tom facing one of his brothers, Nathan, the Orient skipper and the manager thinks there will be plenty of fun being had, but only wants one to come out on top!
“I know Nathan as well, because I had him at Huddersfield; but we decided to let him go and it will be interesting for them both.
“They are both in great form and are a great pair of kids who have been brought up in the right manner.
“They train really well, compete and are professionally and will be looking to get one over on each other.
“Tom has been exceptional since he has been here. The way he has defended, the way he has trained and conducted himself and his goals have been a bonus.
“I’m delighted with him and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of banter, before, during and after the game between the pair of them, but hopefully Tom comes out on top,” he added.