Relegation-threatened Carlisle head to Preston full of belief, insists Graham Kavanagh

Carlisle manager Graham Kavanagh says last weekend's win over Swindon has given his side a vital boost in their fight against relegation

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images Graham Kavanagh the manager of Carlisle United
Graham Kavanagh the manager of Carlisle United

Graham Kavanagh insists Carlisle United head into this afternoon’s M6 derby match at Preston North End full of belief.

The Cumbrians are hovering just above the League One relegation zone, with only goal difference keeping them out of the bottom four.

And while they have a game in hand of all the sides below them, they remain in real relegation danger.

Carlisle’s recent form has been poor, but they did notch a precious home victory last weekend against play-off hopefuls Swindon Town - a result that ended the Blues’ eight-game winless streak, and which extended their unbeaten run to three matches.

However, they now face an even tougher test at Deepdale against fifth-placed Preston, but manager Kavanagh says his side can take heart from their recent performances after collecting five points from their last three games.

He said: “It’s a derby game and we’ve performed well there in the last two years.

“Preston are in a good vein of form and playing with confidence. But our last couple of games have given us good belief.

“I’m sure we will have a big following there and we will do our best to give them a performance.”

Preston’s defeat against Swindon last month was their only league reverse since early January, and Simon Grayson’s side are already guaranteed a play-off place.

But Preston were rocked last week when six of their players were arrested and bailed following an investigation into spot-fixing.

Of those six, three - Keith Keane, David Buchanan and Bailey Wright - could be involved this afternoon, although captain John Welsh is suspended and Graham Cummins and Ben Davies are currently on loan at Rochdale and York City respectively.

Kavanagh said: “Will [the arrests] have a negative effect on them?

“I don’t know, but it is obviously negative publicity towards a very proud football club.

“I’m sure they would rather it wasn’t on their doorstep. But we just need the focus to be on ourselves.

“Everybody at the club understands the importance of our league position and what’s at stake – they will be very focused.”

Carlisle could have striker Lee Miller and winger Matty Robson back in contention, after they recovered from stomach and back problems respectively.

Preston manager Grayson is already planning ahead for the play-offs, but still wants his side to finish off the regular season strongly.

And he has warned his side that they will not have an easy time of it against a Carlisle side fighting to stay in League One.

He said: “Carlisle are a team that is desperate to stay in the division.

“It is very tight down there and they got a good victory last weekend.

“They showed their intentions by bringing Gary Madine back to the club from Sheffield Wednesday, before the deadline and it will be a tough game for us.

“They play a system that will be hard to break down and we have to be clever enough to do that.

“We have had to experience that quite a bit this season, where teams have made it difficult, and we have to make sure we don’t lose concentration and get undone with a counter-attack.

“It’s a tough game for us, but one we are confident we can win.

“We won the last two home games and we want to keep that going, because we want the momentum going into the play-offs.”

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