Manager Simon Grayson admits that when the fixtures came out in June the derby games were the ones to whet the appetite.
North End face the first of six games against Lancashire opponents, home and away, with the visit to PR1 of Neil Lennon’s Bolton Wanderers on Saturday evening for the live Sky Sports encounter and the gaffer is excited at the prospect.
“When the fixtures come out in June the games all the supporters look for are the local games and we are going to experience games against Blackburn, Burnley and Bolton in the next month and they will be great games,” said the PNE boss.
“They will have a good atmosphere and ultimately it is about winning as many points as possible, irrelevant of who you are facing in the division.
“We understand the necessity of trying to win against your local rivals; supporters want the bragging right and we start against Bolton where are supporters have a little bit of hurt from the last time we played them in the Play-Off Final a few years ago. That is part of history and it is about what we do at the weekend now.
“We are respectful of Bolton, because they have some good players. They have members of their squad who have been playing very well over the last few weeks, but not getting the results to go with the performances.”
Not only is this a derby game, it also pits two friends and former team-mates head to head in the form of Grayson and Trotters boss Neil Lennon and this is adding to the build-up for the North End chief.
“We are fully aware of what we need to do and not only do the supporters want to get one over on their local rivals, but I also want to get one over on my former team-mate in Neil Lennon,” he continued.
“We keep in touch and will have a catch up after the game, but we will both be desperate to beat each other at the weekend.
“Form can go out of the window for derby games, but we have looked at the last three or four games that they have played and they have played very well.
“Neil has been saying that they have been playing well; they have just not executed the chances when they have come along or they have got punished for their mistakes.
“This sounds very similar to what was happening to us a few weeks ago; we were well and truly in games – dominating them – but not picking up the points. Their position at this moment in time is belying how well they have played over the last few weeks and we are under no illusions as to how tough a match it is going to be for us.”
And with experienced opposition lining-up against the Lilywhites the manager is well aware of what his side need to do: “They have got some good footballers; the likes of Danns, Pratley, Davies, Ameobi, Wheater, Heskey and others – so it will be a good game and it is one we are looking forward to and hope we can win.
“Neil has got some experience in his squad and he will be looking to those players to guide the others within the squad in order to get a run of results and get them out of the position they are in now.
“We want to try and stay on top of them and cause a little bit more pain and with the way the division is at the moment a couple of wins can take us up the table and into a good position,” he added.