Date: 20th March 2015 at 9:32pm
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Manager Lee Johnson has held his pre Preston North End press conference and team selection figured highly in his thoughts.

Speaking to the Official Site ahead of the game, Johnson talked about missing Milan Lalkovic for three games following his red card against Leyton Orient but said we could welcome back Jean-Yves M’voto and Peter Ramage.

‘We’re looking all right. There are no fresh injuries. Big Jean-Yves M’voto had a little bout of sickness so he missed the last game, but he’s okay now. We gave him 45 minutes in the Under 21s to sharpen him up a little bit and he looked good. He comes back into it and makes us stronger again.’

As for on loan Crystal Palace defender Ramage and his hamstring injury, Johnson said he wasn’t likely to start but he would be back in the match day squad.

‘He’s doing well. He’s gained two full days now. Probably not quite ready for a start but certainly could be used for the bench if needed. He’s definitely available. We want as many players back playing and available as we possibly can. The problem we’ve got is six loans and one of them will have to miss out. If we sign anyone else on loan two might have to miss out so we have to be careful of that. When you’ve got a lot of bodies training, it’s a good things because it means there’s competition for places and nobody feels like their place is guaranteed.’

Having so many loans in that’s just part of the selection headache when you do welcome people back, but at least it gives him options to keep players fresh and chomping at the bit.

Having tried to extend the loan spell of John O’Sullivan from Blackburn Rovers though, Preston could be his last appearance as it doesn’t look like Blackburn are willing to extend the deal and as things stand he will be returned to Ewood Park after the weekend when the spell expires.

‘It’s disappointing for us, of course, because he’s done well. But that’s the plan for them – get him out, let him do well and come back for the back-end of their season. We may have to do a little bit of work to replace him in the market. It’s not the lad’s fault, it’s not a case of him not wanting to be here. He’s been recalled by his parent club.’

Johnson says in an ideal world we will find somebody quickly to replace him given what he has been giving us, as he’s done very well indeed but it does also give him the opportunity to tinker and it might open up a slot for somebody else to stake a claim.

Moving on to Preston and the next three games in particular, the gaffer went on to say.

‘Four or five weeks ago I wouldn’t have thought too many people were getting excited about this time. To get these next three games against top six teams are exciting. If you’re not excited as a player, you may as well give up now because we’re sixth in the table. We’re up there and up there on merit. We’re in form, playing well and everybody is behind us. That’s the sort of atmosphere, surely, you want to play in as a player. Every win you get – not necessarily result – is massive at this stage of the season. Not only do you gain three points but you lose a game and if anybody slips up with three, four or five games left, it’s difficult for anyone else to come over the top of you.’

He went on to say that he thinks it’s quite an interesting scenario and conundrum in many ways.

‘Do you fight harder being the challenger or as the champion? Of course, you should fight equally as hard as both. It is a different mindset and we mentioned this to the players. All of a sudden when you’re there to be shot at, you have to have that mental character.’

And for Preston specifically, especially given the season they are having.

‘Preston are a strong side. Their squad is strong. They’ve invested heavily in that squad. They had a good year in League One last year as well and they have a good manager who knows the division. They’re coming here and we’ll certainly not lay down and die.’

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