Tony Mowbray expects a reaction from Preston in today’s final game of the season, even though all the pressure is on Sunderland. The Black Cats – backed by a 6,000-strong travelling army of fans – head to Deepdale this afternoon knowing they must win to stand a chance of finishing in a play-off place, albeit they would also need help from elsewhere in the shape of either Middlesbrough beating Coventry City, or Millwall dropping points against Blackburn Rovers.
For their part, there is nothing riding on the game for Preston after their 4-1 defeat at Sheffield United last weekend killed off the Lillywhites’ faint play-off hopes. However Preston boss Ryan Lowe insisted this week that his side would not be ‘on the beach’, and Mowbray knows they will want to bow out on a high in front of their own fans after the heavy defeat at Bramall Lane meant they have picked up just a single point from their last four games.
“Preston had a disappointing result last weekend and they can’t get there [the play-offs] now,” said Mowbray. “It’ll be interesting to see how they perform but, playing at home in front of their own fans on the last day on the back of what has been a pretty positive season for them, I’m sure they’ll be giving everything to try and finish on a high.
“I’ve read some comments from their manager this week and he was very disappointed with their defeat at Sheffield United, and we’ll see what comes. What I do know is that every club wants to finish the season strongly at home and try and have a walk around with their kids and their families, and show their appreciation to the supporters and vice-versa.
“We have to go there and try to get the job done for the needs that we’ve got.”
Mowbray knows all about Preston, having managed their neighbours Blackburn for five-and-a-half years. He said: “We have to be very respectful of Preston.
“They suffered a bit earlier in the season at home, they were struggling to win at home, but they resolved that towards the end of the season. People who know the history of football know that Preston was one of the biggest clubs in the country for many, many, years.
“It’s had some of the world’s great players from the 1930s to the 1950s. There was a day when Blackpool vs Preston was the biggest game in the country.
“Preston is a club full of history and with a passionate support-base. We have to try and make sure it is a difficult day for them.”
While Sunderland must win in Lancashire, Mowbray has been careful not to allow the situation to change the way he and his team have prepared for the game. He said: “We have to approach it as the next game, as we have done every game really.
“We have to try and control the game if we can, be aggressive and play the way we play. We haven’t overly-studied Preston.
“I don’t want to turn it into a cup final scenario. We’re looking forward to it. It’s been a long build-up, nine days or so.”
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