Manager Simon Grayson admits his side will be the underdog travelling to Championship Play-Off contenders Ipswich Town at the weekend.
The fourth placed League One Lilywhites take on the sixth placed Tractor Boys from the division above, but the PNE boss is looking forward to the test against the calibre of team his side hope to be facing week in, week out next season.
“They are a good team,” said the gaffer. “Mick [McCarthy] has developed a squad and they have got into the top six in the division. They are a strong, powerful unit and have threats right the way through the team; so it will be a good test.
“I’m not quite sure what team Ipswich will put out. I’m sure they will make changes, like we probably will as well, because it’s been a tough period, especially for the players who have played every game, but it’s a freebie.
“We want to go down there and test ourselves against a good Championship club and see where we are.
“Nobody probably expects us to go and win down there, but if we do, we are in the next round and if we don’t, we move back onto the league form.”
Both sides could make changes for the game, but the North End chief will only be trying to win the game: “We are going down there to try and win the match. We don’t want to sit on the bus for six hours there and six hours back and expect to get beaten.
“We go into every match looking to win. We have a winning mentality about the place and whilst the Cup can be a distraction, it can breed confidence within the group.
“We have a big enough squad to change it around if we need to. That is not being disrespectful to Ipswich or to the competition, we feel that our team isn’t weakened by any changes that we make and that will be the same when we go to Ipswich.
“Every team we put out, we want to go and win the game.
“We have a desire to succeed and we would like to get through a couple more rounds. It brings with it the excitement and anticipation within the players, the group and the supporters. So, we can go down there, enjoy the game and the day and the only disappointing thing is the travelling for both the team and the supporters, but that’s part and parcel of football.”
Those changes could include the return of Paul Huntington, who is free from suspension, whilst a number of others who have not played in the three festive fixtures could come into the reckoning.
“The likes of Keith Keane have been regulars for the team this season and hasn’t played over the Christmas period and there are one or two others who will come into the reckoning as well,” added the manager.
“We picked up one or two knocks in the game and we will assess them before we travel, but if players aren’t available, then it gives whoever comes in an opportunity to earn their place in the team.”