It’s been a long time in coming, but Johnstone Paint fever is finally back. I don’t know about you lot, but I’m ever so excited.

Bring on the bullies.

How are they getting on?

It’s only a few weeks since we last played them, and while their form at the time was a little iffy (they’d not won a game in five), that really wasn’t an indication of just how sturdy a test they were going to be.

Roll forward 19 days and there’s still a bit of ambiguity about them. Overall, their form’s still really poor. But in the four games since, they’ve lost a couple while also grabbed a win and a draw as well. I’ll give you one guess as to who that was against?

Yep, that’s right – poor old Hartlepool. How utterly predictable.

Looking at the bigger picture – and ignoring for a second their shootout victory to get them here – they’ve only won twice since 10 November. Compare that to our form over the same period and you really can’t help but be positive about our chances. But as we saw last time out, Preston are a mighty tough nut to crack.

Who could cause us trouble?

A whole load of them gave us grief back in December. Lee Holmes grabbed the calmly-taken equaliser, while midfielder Andy Procter also proved to be a decent player.

John Mousinho was the one who impressed me though, and I am worried about how much they were able to dominate and impose themselves on our midfield. The Preston lads won’t have short memories – they’ll remember how much they bullied us. As will we, which is more concerning.

They’ve also just taken 24 year old striker Joe Garner from Watford on a free. He’s a former £1 million striker and someone who has proven capable of scoring goals at this level before, and has also notched 7 in his loan spell with Carlisle this season, prior to his recent move.

Sky Blues team news

Well, the good news is we’re still managing to avoid injuries and have added Leon Clarke and Blair Adams to the ranks (just the one week extension for Blair, initially) so they are both available to play. You’d imagine there’s only one reason why Adams has extended his loan for one week, and that’s to get him in for this game before we finalise a transfer for him.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost two games in a row, which has halted our momentum somewhat. David McGoldrick also buggered off to Ipswich to join up with every other available striker, and we haven’t scored in either of those defeats. It’s not a pressing concern just yet, because one of those was against Spurs, but something we’re going to become increasingly wary of as the time passes. Leon Clarke will be hoping to rectify it, that’s for sure.

One part of the pitch where I think there may be the possibility of change is in the midfield, with Bailey and Jennings both having bad times of it on Saturday, and Jennings in particular fading in the second half of both recent defeats. While part of Robins’ favoured line-up, their concern will have been increased following the impressive return to the side of young Conor Thomas on Saturday, and yet another impressive performance from deep by John Fleck. We’re all very intrigued as to whether either of these has done enough to force their way into the line up.

Finally, just a small mention for poor Stephen Elliott again who is yet to make a further contribution following his match-winning heroics against MK Dons. While I feel sorry for him, you have to acknowledge that the strength of the bench in recent games has made it extremely difficult for Robins to get him on the pitch. Especially in the current formation. Maybe he’ll get his chance tonight?

A couple of players who won’t be anywhere near the team will be Reece Brown and Chris Hussey who have had their loan and contract cancelled respectively. Bye bye lads.

Prediction

Our home form is a growing problem. But our form in the cup isn’t. Preston gave us a right game just before Christmas. But they’re struggling for form generally.

It’s almost uncallable (if that’s even a word), but I just feel that it’s one of those occasions where we have it in us to scrap our way through. I don’t think it’s going to be a pretty one for the Sky cameras, but an exciting victory on penalties will do me right now. Any victory at all, please. Just get me though.

It might not mean a lot to the rest of the country, but right now, success of any kind would be a huge deal for this football club. The league is important, but this could be absolutely massive.

I’ll be there. Will you?

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