After watching Preston North End hang on to draw with league leaders Swindon Town, new Lilywhites manager Simon Grayson revealed his delight at his side’s performance.
The game at the County Ground marked Grayson’s first game in charge of North End, and despite a late flurry of attacks from Swindon, Will Hayhurst’s first goal for the Club proved enough to ensure PNE claimed an equal share of the points.
Acknowledging North End were underdogs going into the match, Grayson told PNE.Com after the game that he was impressed with what he saw from his team, even admitting a little disappointment that Preston were not able to travel back home with all three points in the bag.
“I was pleased with the players,” he said. “They showed a lot of effort, a desire to not get beat. We played some decent stuff at times.
“Obviously it’s a transition of different managers and different playing styles. The players have been very receptive to what we’ve been trying to do over the last few days.
“You saw today that there’s a desire in the group looking to do better than they have done already this year.”
The North End boss added: “I’m delighted with the result. This is not an easy place to come.
“Swindon were top of the division, so everyone probably expected a home win on their coupon.
“We just said to the players at half-time, just have a little bit more belief in yourselves. Take care of the ball a little bit better and we’ll get opportunities, and we did that.”
Despite the manner of Swindon’s equaliser Grayson refused to blame his players, insisting you could see from their performance how hard they had fought for the cause today.
“It’s disappointing but we would have certainly settled for a point when we came here this morning,” Grayson confessed.
“They put us under a bit of pressure with their set pieces because they’re a big, strong team.
“They’ve got good delivery from Gary Roberts and Tommy Miller, but we withstood that. You saw the players getting blocks and challenges in.
“For the goal Bailey’s gone to head it, then he’s ducked and David’s sat off. There’s confusion there but it’s a genuine mistake.
“I’m not going to have a go at any players if they make genuine mistakes.”
After Preston fielded an unchanged starting line-up for only the second time this season, Grayson revealed that last week’s win over Bournemouth ensured the same team deserved to start, reserving special praise for goalscorer Hayhurst, who turns 19 on Sunday.
“We kept the same team because the players deserved it to be the same team after the performance last week.
“Will’s a local lad. I’ll be honest, I don’t know a great deal about him,” the North End boss admitted. “I’ve only seen him during this week in training.
“He grew with the game as it went on. A little bit apprehensive early on perhaps, rushing a few things, but you could see the quality he’s got.
“He’s a good runner with the ball. He got more confident and obviously for him to score his first goal, he’ll treasure that moment and remember it for a long time.”
Despite having seen the Lilywhites take points off the League One leaders in two successive weeks, Grayson was cautious ahead of a difficult run of away fixtures for the Lilywhites, but confessed his squad are now full of confidence and ready for anyone.
“We’ve got some difficult games coming up, but the players seem to thrive from that,” Grayson considered. “MK Dons next weekend isn’t going to be easy, but we go there in good spirits.
“The players have got a buzz about them. In the dressing room there’s a sense of them really enjoying what they’re doing.
“There’s a togetherness in the squad and only time will tell if this group are good enough to get us up the divisions, but we’ll work hard with them to try and achieve that.”