North End take on currently undefeated West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale at the weekend and head coach Frankie McAvoy says they will face a ‘formidable opponent’.
The Lilywhites boss took charge against a Valérian Ismaël side last season, when he was interim head coach and Barnsley visited PR1 for the final home game of the 2020/21 campaign, PNE coming out 2-0 winners and he expects a similar challenge on Saturday.
“West Brom are undefeated,” the Scot told iFollow PNE. “Valérian, as he showed at Barnsley last season, has a team that will be very tough, very competitive and hard to beat. They have started great, although their last couple of games have been draws, and I expect nothing other than a really, really tough game.
“Where we have been really good recently, in terms of our high press, I think that will be very difficult to do, because they turn the ball, the put the ball forward, they get balls in the box and they make it very difficult for you, but they are going to be a very formidable opponent.
“We will give them every respect they are due, but we are in a good place, we will be confident and we will try and take the game to them.
“Last season the Barnsley game was one of the ones I was in charge with, when Alex moved on; we managed to win that game that day, but it was a tough game.
“We scored from two set plays – Jordan Storey and Ched [Evans] from the long throw – and West Brom use the long throw very well, as well – and we just need to stand up and be counted on Saturday.
“This will be a different type of challenge, probably more like the game against Bristol City, where you have to be tough and deal with balls coming into your box and, hopefully, we will be up for that challenge.
“They are near the top of the league, undefeated and there on merit, but we are coming off the back of five games undefeated and we will be looking to try and sustain that.”
There will be a lot of familiar faces arriving in the Baggies squad, some of which the head coach worked with, but he hopes to make sure they are not smiling at the end of the game: “I didn’t work with Sam [Johnstone] and Adam Reach, but Jordan [Hugill], Callum [Robinson] and Jay [Molumby] – who we had last season – we know really well.
“Jordan has done magnificently well since he left the club – he’s a good player, he is big and strong and he will do well. Callum is a fantastic boy and a fantastic player with great feet – he always has a smile on his face – hopefully he won’t have one on Saturday!
“Jay has great energy, great enthusiasm about him and he is another great boy; but once we get to Saturday, they are the enemy and it is our task to try and win the game.”
The atmosphere in the second half of the last home game, when North End defeated Swansea City, saw Deepdale bouncing and Frankie praised the support the team and he have received in recent weeks.
“The fans have been great; the last two away games they have travelled in their numbers and at the last home game against Swansea, the atmosphere was very memorable and hopefully the fans can see that everyone is doing their utmost to try and win the game.
“The atmosphere in the last part of the game was excellent, so I am really looking forward to a good game and we will do everything we can to try and make it a good game,” he added.
There’s loads more from the head coach, including his tough selection decisions at the weekend, just click on the video at the top of the page.