Gareth Ainsworth has batted away suggestions that the FA Cup holds lesser significance for his side compared to the challenge of a Championship survival battle, ahead of the visit of Preston North End to Adams Park in the third round of the competition on Saturday (k.o. 3pm).
The Lilywhites return to Adams Park just three years after they tore the Blues apart in a 5-1 win at the same stage, but this year there’s no two-division gulf between the clubs, with the two teams renewing acquaintances only a month after a 2-2 draw in the league.
Now Ainsworth hopes to see his men get back to winning ways in the cup against a Preston outfit that he represented three times in his career.
“Some might say this is a distraction from the league for us but it’s just another game that we want to win,” he affirmed. “In all my years as a player, playing in all sorts of different competitions, I don’t remember ever going into a game thinking anything other than ‘I want to win this game of football’. We want to pick up momentum and get back into that winning habit that we can take into the league games, and as well as that, I want to be able to give this club a cup run for the fans, the players, staff and owners too.”
The 2018 encounter was the last time Wanderers made it to the third round, but their hopes of a prolonged run in the competition were ended by a ruthless North End side, with current Chairboy Daryl Horgan at the heart of Preston’s success that day.
“They were excellent and we weren’t able to match them, but I’m sure it’ll be a lot different this time around. This isn’t about revenge for that game, not at all. They were a class apart, as a Championship club coming to Adams Park when we were in League 2, but now we’re at the same level and if anything, this game just shows how far we’ve come in that time.”
And Ainsworth could hand a debut to new signing Admiral Muskwe, who arrived on loan from Leicester this week to bolster the Blues’ attacking options.
“Adi scores goals that we haven’t been scoring: those ones in between the sticks, in front of goal, where we create chances but haven’t had that instinctive striker sticking them away,” Ainsworth said. “We’ve worked hard to bring him and Andrew Howard has done some great work to get it over the line. Rob, Missy and Pete Couhig have backed me 100% once again and hopefully there’s more transfer business to come in this window.”
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