With PNE going a week without a fixture for the first time since the beginning of January, Ryan Lowe feels his players have looked “fresher” in training as they prepare to take on Reading.
It has been a busy Championship schedule in the past month or so, with North End having squeezed in their postponed December fixtures around their already planned games.
While the results in that period have been extremely positive, the manager felt a rest was needed and he has used this week to help their recovery.
He told iFollow PNE: “I think we've had games where we’ve played Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday or Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, and it does catch up with you and you've got to rotate the squad a little bit.
“We’ve got a bit of freshness back into the lads. They've certainly looked fresher today, and we'll continue the game plan tomorrow.
“It’s always nice when you've got a free week because you can get some coaching in as well. Tuesday was a coaching day, Thursday was another coaching day, with large parts built on the Reading game, and then tomorrow [Friday] we'll finish it off.
“So it's been important we got a little bit of downtime as well and obviously to put the game plan together for Reading.”
In Reading, North End face a side sat 21st in the table and without victory since November, with their most recent game being a 0-0 draw against Peterborough United on Wednesday night.
That was one which could have pushed the Royals five points clear of the drop zone, but Ryan feels their table position could be “false” given their luck with injuries and their points deduction earlier in the campaign.
Ryan said: “We can't take any team lightly at all, and Reading will be the same. We'll show them the respect they deserve.
“They’re a fantastic outfit with some good players. We can't take them lightly because if you do you can get your fingers burned by not preparing right.
“We’ll definitely prepare right and we're expecting a tough encounter because they're fighting for their lives down there and they want to collect points so they're not just going to roll over.
“We've got to make sure that we get our own house in order first and if we do that then as you've seen this season we're capable of winning games of football and that'll certainly be the plan.”
The manager will be particularly keen to take all three points as that result would be the first time his side have done that at Deepdale since his opening game in charge against Barnsley, with the four which have followed all ending in draws.
“We’ve been going well at home,” Ryan added. “They’re just different types of games, aren’t they?
“The Bristol City one where we came back and the Sheffield United one, we want those goals we’re scoring late on to be winning goals - not drawing goals - to get the three points.
“The games are coming thick and fast; we’ve got plenty of home games left. We want to make sure we start winning games at home certainly, we’re winning games away from home and that’s the plan but ultimately you can’t dictate that.
“There’s going to be teams coming here with game plans to stop us doing that. All we’ve got to do is make sure we’re on it on the day and we fulfil the game plan and as we’ve seen we can beat any team in the league.”
Watch Ryan's full interview for free on iFollow PNE at the top of the page.