Preston North End manager Alex Neil is expecting a tough test when his side line up against Doncaster Rovers at Deepdale this Sunday.
But the Lilywhites boss is also expecting a trilling knock-out tie as they face their first outing in the Emirates FA Cup this season, with Grant McCann’s side the opposition in the third round encounter at 2pm.
Previewing the game with iFollow PNE, the gaffer acknowledged the form of his opponents, but was also keen to stress his own side’s current performance levels.
“These are exciting games normally,” he said. “It is a risky game when you have teams from a lower league coming in. You look at Doncaster, they have been going very well in the league, they have been dangerous and they score goals.
“But likewise, we have been playing well. I don’t think we have had the rewards of our performances in the last few matches, but our form has been good. I have been pleased with the performances, so hopefully we can take a similar type of performance in and get the right result on Sunday.
“Sometimes when you watch football, you have to take the performance and the result separately. I’d like to try and work as if you play well, then over the course of the season you will get the results to go with that and all we can do is get the lads ready to try and play well in the game and if they continue to play well in games, they will win matches.
“You have to take the kicks in teeth along the way, the frustrations of performing well and creating chances and maybe not scoring them or making a mistake that might cost you a goal – but that is the trials and tribulations of football. We have to try and keep an even keel and hopefully come the end of the season, we will have had a strong second half of the season.”
Whilst he won’t have any of his three new recruits available for this Sunday, he is delighted to get business done early and he feels that he has a trio of players who can make an immediate impact on the squad.
“We have started early, like we did in the summer, but people tend to forget it by the time you get to the end of the window – because when you do get your work done early, everyone is delighted at the time, but when it comes to the end of the window they are asking ‘are we not doing any more business?’!” Added the PNE boss.
“We have got it done early and I think that it is important that we do as a club. Naturally you will get some good deals at the end of the window, because people are scrambling about, but if you are targeting players, they can hold you to ransom, because you are desperately needing a player. Doing it in the manner we have done, recruiting the players we have done, keeping in sensible, we have tried to recruit the better players we can source, that can hopefully come in and have an impact for us.
“You can do all the research you like, but you will find out more about a player in one week in with us about their character, how they behave, how they deal with stress and pressure, what’s their best position, their strengths and weaknesses all very quickly.
"When you go watch them elsewhere, it is a different atmosphere and setting they are in, so sometimes taking them out of that environment can disrupt them and sometimes it can make them thrive and we are very hopeful that the lads we have brought in can do well for us and thrive for themselves.
“If you look at the summer window, we signed a lot of younger players, to make sure we have younger players coming through to push our senior players. I thought this window it was important we got guys of a good age, who had all of that and are ready made and can go and impact the squad immediately and that’s been our focus of getting these lads in.”
He also could have some of his injured players back in contention for the first time in a few games and he is looking forward to having those ‘new signings’ available as well.
“It is great to have numbers back in training. The lads always train great, but it is good to have more out there. We talked last year when Sean Maguire came back about him feeling like a new signing and this year we will feel like we have got about eight new signings!
“It is always difficult when you are without key players. All the players who are currently out have played key roles in my time here, so to be without them all is extremely difficult and frustrating. But there is no point crying over spilled milk, you just need to get on with it and having them back will be great and they will all be chomping at the bit to get ready.
“It will be nice to have options, but my sole focus is on Doncaster at the moment. We want to win this game. We want to try and pick up a bit of momentum and go on another good run, like the one we went on not so long ago, and I think that starts with this game,” he added.