North End boss Simon Grayson is under no illusion of the test his side face when they come up against former PNE manager Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.
The Scot brings his Championship high-flyers to Deepdale full of confidence and the Lilywhites gaffer is well aware that despite his side’s goalless draw at the City Ground, they are very much the underdogs for the fourth round replay.
“It is not just another game for us, we want to win this game, but we are still the underdogs,” he said. “We need to be hard to beat, but we will create chances even against a top Championship team.
“It was a good game down there and they were very complimentary of how we played and rightly so, because we put in a professional performance.
“I am sure Billy will get a pleasant reception, because he did fantastically well for this football club. Fans forget sometimes what people did in the past, but it should never be forgotten that he nearly took them to the Premiership.
“We have done well against Championship sides at home this season, beating Blackpool and Ipswich and Wednesday will be a chance to show what we are about in front of a TV audience, raising the profile of the football club and the players and hopefully we can cause an upset and get through to the next round.”
Craig Davies started and scored on his debut against Forest’s cross-Trent rivals Notts County at the weekend, but like the Reds’ transfer window recruits, will not be available for the replay.
Grayson, however, is pleased to welcome back another Davies; Kevin free of suspension: “Kevin Davies comes back from suspension and other than Josh Brownhill we have everyone else available for us and that’s a good selection dilemma for me to have.
“Having Kevin back is good for us, because of what he can bring to the group. We have some fantastic options now on attack. We have six top strikers that we can utilise in any formation.
“Having all those options backs up the fact we can compete in two competitions and we do feel that when we do make changes that we are not weakening the team. We made seven changes for the replay against Ipswich and we still put on a good performance and won the game. The majority of the players that came into that team have play 70 or 80 per cent of the league games, so it was just a case of freshening it up.
“We are forced to make at least one change from the weekend with Craig Davies being ineligible, but whoever does come into the team won’t make it any weaker, because we have a strong squad who compete for each other.”
The first game between the two sides back on a Friday 12 days before replay saw North End dominate the chances and the PNE chief was delighted with the character and display of his side and is looking for a repeat back at Deepdale.
“As a manager you like to look back on games and think you were well prepared and that the players carried out every instruction you asked them to do – which is the same at any level – and we did that at the City Ground in the first tie. We worked hard on our plans. We knew we had to stop them from playing and let them have a bit more possession than we would have liked normally.
“They’ve just turned over West Ham, Blackburn, Watford and Yeovil at the City Ground, scoring 16 goals in the process, so we felt we did really well in the first tie and had some good opportunities to win the game as well. But this is a different game. Who knows what team they will put out, but we know they are a strong, powerful unit who will be a tough game for us.
“We had six or seven shots on target down there, as opposed to their one, so we put in a good team performance, but they will be coming up here on the back of good victories and there will be the extra spice of Billy coming back to Deepdale."