Simon Grayson was full of praise for his players following PNE’s 3-0 victory against Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium.
The gaffer was speaking following goals by Joel Byrom, Chris Humphrey and Lee Holmes in a match the Lilywhites dominated to end the Saddlers’ 16 match unbeaten home run.
And he was more than happy with the general performance of his players, as his side recorded their first win of the season to remain undefeated.
Speaking to PNE.Com, Grayson said of the match: “I think we can be very pleased with the way we played, the tempo was very good from start to finish, we passed the ball with a purpose and when we had to defend we defended.
“The game could have quite easily been over before half-time, I thought we had some great opportunities, numerous corners and then again straight after half-time we had two real good opportunities to kill the game off but we eventually did that.
“We are hard to beat and we had a real purpose about us when we had possession of the ball and created a lot of good chances.
“I think we can take a lot of credit from the fact they didn’t threaten much because of how we dominated, we didn’t allow then to get into their routine, we also felt that the extra day rest that we had from Tuesday when they played on Wednesday might be a factor, but we like to concentrate on the positives of what we have done rather than any sort of negatives from the opposition.
“We said to the players after the game on Tuesday night that if we can produce that same sort of intensity and performance and take it into our league form, and no disrespect, but we will play poorer teams than Burnley, then we should be able to cope and win a lot more matches and today has been a good result for us and a good performance.”
Grayson stuck with the formation change which was made for the Capital One Cup clash against Burnley on Tuesday and it paid dividend against a side with one of the best home records in England, with Keith Keane, Byrom and Humphrey, all individually praised by the gaffer, the latter two in particular, for the way they have grasped the change of formation and chance presented to them.
Grayson continued: “It is a tough position to play because you have to be up to support the strikers and your midfield and you have to work back to defend, but we felt that that would suit us with Humphrey and Scott Laird.
“You could quite easily put a more defensive minded player out into them positions, but I came across quite a few teams last year that played with out-and-out wingers and they were a constant threat because they take players the other way and he was looking to run in behind, but then he was running backwards to help out the defence, so no wonder he was hobbling around the last few minutes because he put a fantastic shift in today.
“He has been very good all season to be fair,” added Grayson when talking about Keane.
“The other night, him and Joel Byrom were very good, dominated the two Burnley lads and again today they were powerful, they kept the ball simple, they backed play up and were part of a team that worked extremely hard for the jersey.
“I think what you get with Joel is that he has got a fine left foot, he has got some good quality with it, keeps the ball simple, keeps it moving, keeps it ticking along and he is a threat from set pieces, so full credit to the lad.
“He missed a lot of game time when I first came in last year because of a hernia operation, but he has come back in real good shape, kept working hard when he hasn’t been in the 18 and he has grasped an opportunity and they were a nice fit in there today.
“We touched on a few things with the players that we felt we just had to tweak a little bit from the other night, we had to have a little bit more of a cutting edge in the final third and again I thought the formation was worthwhile in what we tried to do.
“I thought the players squeezed and pressed when we had to do, we passed the ball when we had to do and the system worked well, but the overriding factor was that the players worked extremely hard for each other and that contributed to the win more than anything.”
North End return from the Midlands with one injury concern, that belonging to Stuart Beavon, who had to be replaced following a collision which resulted in a knee injury, but Grayson is hopeful it is not as serious as first feared.
“It looks like he has just tweaked it,” said Grayson.
“He had a knee problem from pre-season so we are hopeful that it is nothing too serious and we have obviously got a ten day period before we play Oldham so hopefully we can have him back because he looked very sharp when he was on the pitch, running in behind and making clever movements and could have had a couple of opportunities, so delighted to have him back, but then we have got Joe Garner who comes on and was a constant threat as well.”
Despite today only being PNE’s first win of the Sky Bet League One season, the Lilywhites are now five unbeaten and the manager insists that failure to secure three points prior to today, was not something giving him cause for concern.
He added: “I wasn’t making too much of a thing about it last week because I felt we could have won all of the games that we played previously so I wasn’t being concerned, but I think it will settle a few people down that win, it is still nice to be undefeated and a good victory and a good performance to go with it and obviously we would like to now get more victories in our next two home games that we have got coming up.”