PRESTON V EVERTON
By David Allen
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Preston have scored at a faster rate than Everton this season - netting an average of 1.77 goals per game, compared to the Merseysiders` 1.61. The Deepdale side are the second-top scorers in the Second Division, thanks, in part, to Jon Macken`s 15 league goals.
Macken has also managed to net against Arsenal in the League Cup, so Everton`s defence will not underestimate its task. Everton have let in goals at a rate of 1.48 per game, while Preston have conceded an average of just 0.88 goals per match - giving them the third best defence in the Second Division.
With the likes of John Collins, Don Hutchison and Nick Barmby in midfield, Everton have completed a higher percentage of their passes than Preston -showing the gap in quality between the Premiership and the Nationwide league.
The Blues have an undefeated home record that stretches back to April of last year, so a win looks unlikely for the Second Division outfit. However, six of Everton`s last seven home matches in the league have ended in draws, so David Moyes will feel his men are capable of at least forcing a replay.
Everton manager Walter Smith has a pleasing dilemma ahead of the game, having to decide whether Thomas Myhre or Steve Simonsen replace the injured Paul Gerrard in goal.
Scot Gemmill and Mitch Ward both return to the squad after missing out last week through illness and injury, although Abel Xavier will not be considered for the match, despite returning to training following illness.
John Collins is the greatest doubt for the Toffees as he struggles to overcome an ankle injury, while Alec Cleland is definitely out with a calf injury.
Preston have few injury worries ahead of the game. Lee Cartwright is probable to start after overcoming a knee injury while Steve Basham looks set to return to the bench after playing the full 90 minutes in the reserve team`s 1-0 victory at Stoke.
Moyes` main doubts centre around Michael Appleton and Sean Gregan, both of whom were rested for the reserve team game after collecting knocks last weekend.
Lifelong Everton fan David Eyres is pressing Moyes to let him achieve his childhood dream and play at Goodison, despite having a fractured rib.
Dave Allen/Opta Staff