Team will rise to the challenge, says Johnson
Reporter: Simon Smedley
Date online: 07 March 2014
ATHLETIC boss Lee Johnson is backing his team to rise to their massive derby challenge at home to Preston tomorrow.
Simon Grayson’s in-form side heads to Boundary Park on the back of a nine-match unbeaten league run.
The Deepdale outfit has been saddened by the death of club legend Sir Tom Finney, but the current team has carried on winning on the pitch and is in the mix for an automatic return to the Championship.
Athletic — 15th in the table, three points above Crewe’s final relegation spot — face a daunting task in many people’s eyes, but Johnson has a near full-strength squad available and is looking for a win.
He said: “Preston are flying and they’ll bring a fair few fans with them, and I love it when there’s a good atmosphere. We’ll go into tomorrow as underdogs, but we are at home.
“Many of our younger lads won’t be used to the big derby match atmosphere, so we’ll have to just make sure they know how important the game is. I know the players will enjoy the game.
“The occasion will give them a lift. There will be no confidence issues tomorrow.”
Preston’s fellow high-fliers Rotherham are in town on Tuesday night, but again Johnson remains positive.
“We’ve got two massive games coming up over the next few days, against teams who are both bang in form,” he said.
“It could be the wrong time to play Preston and Rotherham, it could be the right time.
“Either way, there’s a big belief we can get positive results in both games.”
Defender Genseric Kusunga is Athletic’s only definite absentee tomorrow due to a thigh injury, while wide man James Dayton will be assessed before kick-off. Centre-back James Wilson is available again.
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