Simon Grayson was full of praise for his players after several of his stars climbed off their sickbeds to help earn a point against MK Dons in Buckinghamshire.
Players such as Jack King, Bailey Wright and others had been struggling for the best part of the week with an illness, but they helped produce a performance full of grit, determination and with an abundance of quality, in response to losing a goal inside the opening two minutes.
Speaking to PNE.Com after the match Grayson said: “I thought Jack King today was exceptional, the way he held the ball up and won nearly every header he was involved in and gave us a base to play off and on another day, other people might have got opportunities from him.
“I’m delighted he saw the game out, one because of his illness and two because of how he played.”
Will Hayhurst grabbed his second goal in as many games as both he and Lee Holmes terrorised their opposing full backs throughout the encounter – and the pair linked up superbly for North End’s equaliser.
“We spoke to both the wide players and said that when it is going down the other side then get in to that far post because a lot of the time defenders switch off,” continud the manager.
“It was great play by Lee Holmes and Will [Hayhurst] burst in there and finished it off and I’m delighted that that is two goals in two games for him and his confidence will be soaring game by game.
“His overall work rate and helping out in the defensive area with David Buchanan was great and he was doing well in an attacking sense as well.”
Speaking about Holmes the gaffer added: “He has good technical ability and is good with both feet and I think when a player can go either side it gives the full back a difficult option because if he checks back.
“He can put it back in with good quality on his left foot or as you saw with his right and he put a great ball in and Will got on the end of it.
“It’s something we have done a lot of work on this week, crossing and finishing, with players getting on the end of it and if you are putting the ball in to a difficult area then it is not easy for the defenders and that was the case today.”
Having worked their way back into the game, the Lilywhites went for the jugular late on, making positive substitutions as they pressed for all three points.
“We certainly tried to win the game at the back end with the substitutions of Jeffrey Monakana and Joe Garner coming on, we were always trying to win the game and that has always been my philosophy.
“We will settle for a draw if we were not going to win it but we were trying to win it at the end.
“We got off to a poor start when we made a mistake but the players have again showed work rate, endeavour and a good attitude to put their bodies on the line when they had too.
“We played a decent passing game at times but we just lacked that little bit of quality in the final third when we were counter attacking, whether that’s the confidence in the players, the quality of the players, or most notably the quality of the pitch, which was bobbly for both teams, so there are aspects to work on.
“As a manager you are delighted when you see the commitment and the attitude of the players first and foremost.”
MK Dons were not without their own chances and some heroic defending was required at times against a good footballing side: “The players made good challenges; good blocks and you saw Bailey Wright and David Buchanan going down injured after a block for each other so we limited them to few opportunities.
“You know that MK Dons are going to keep the ball and pass it around and we felt that we could drop off and make it difficult for them and then have that opportunity to counter attack quickly which, on another day, could have led to us going and winning the game,” he added.