After Sunday’s clash with Shrewsbury Town, the season will reach it’s mid-point, with North End having then played every team in the division once.
Manager Simon Grayson spoke to PNE.Com ahead of the clash with the Salop and was pleased with the progress his side have made over the first 22 games, but admits that there is still a lot of hard work needed.
“When we started our pre-season games we wanted to make sure we were in and around the top reaches of the division and that will be the case come the half way stage of the season,” he told the official website.
“We have a lot of work still to be done for us and other teams. Nothing is secure for anyone, but we have given ourselves a platform to build from, as have other teams and hopefully it will be an exciting second half of the season for us.”
The Lilywhites recorded their seventh away league win at Carlisle on Boxing Day, including their 13th clean sheet of the season; and this solid defensive base is what the gaffer believes is the basis of their form so far.
“Most teams are not successful by regularly being involved in 3-2 or 4-3 games” he continued. “I have been involved in games in my time at Leeds where we were a free-scoring team, but we also conceded a few and it is about getting the right balance.
“We need defenders who defend, first and foremost, and we have that here. We have players that are willing to put their bodies on the line, organise and who know what the shape of the team is, whatever formation we chose to play.
“We also have players within the group who can score goals, create goals and go and hurt teams, like we have already done so far this season. Individual brilliance can sometimes win you games, but you need to defend when you have to.”
Sunday’s opponents took six points off North End last season and therefore the PNE chief is expecting a tough game and against Graham Turner’s men and also a man he and the North End faithful know very well.
“They’ve had a couple of disappointing home results of late, but they have players that can be very effective on the day.
“We have to be very respectful of them and make sure that we treat them in the manner that we have done in every away game.
“We are professional, we work hard and we have to make sure we implement our game plan on them and do what it takes to go and win the game.
“They will be looking for a reaction and we also have to be careful of that.
“Graham knows what it is all about. He has been through many things in his career and he will know exactly what he needs to do to cajole his players and get the best out of them.
“I know Jacko [Michael Jackson] well. He is a good type. I had him as my captain at Blackpool and he will also be working hard and desperate to get back to winning ways, as we were when we went to Carlisle.
“If we can keep playing with the confidence and belief we have done in the last few months, then we can get the right result.”
Joe Garner and Kevin Davies both return from suspension for the trip to Greenhous Meadow, leaving the manager with plenty of selection issues to consider, something that he is pleased with.
“It’s a good position to be in. Rather than just having 18 players available, where the team picks itself, I have the option of resting players if I need to; changing the system if I need to and unfortunately there will be one or two players who don’t make the 18 man squad on Sunday, but that’s what it is all about. Pushing each other – trying to pick the right team and do whatever is the right team for the football club in that particular game.
“People might question the selection sometimes, but we like to think we know what we’re doing.
“We see the players daily and how they are playing, their confidence, their fitness levels and the ones that are selected will be going out there to do the best for Preston North End,” he added.
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