Nicky Wroe was thrilled to see Preston North End extend their unbeaten run to four games as the Lilywhites strolled to victory against an underwhelming Stevenage side.
First half goals from Lee Holmes and Will Hayhurst ensured Simon Grayson claimed his maiden win as Preston manager, in his first game in charge at Deepdale.
Wroe was delighted to be playing back in front of a home game again, with North End’s last home match against Bournemouth taking place three weeks ago, and acknowledged how important it was for the Lilywhites to keep their impressive run going.
“It feels brilliant to have won today,” Wroe beamed. “We knew after our last couple of games, and our last game here against Bournemouth, that we needed to keep that run going and luckily we’ve managed to do that today.
“It was a great performance from the lads and the perfect start for the new manager. After getting draws in our last two games it was vital we got a first win under him today and we’re all delighted to have kept our unbeaten run going.
He added: “We knew going into the game today that if we started well, like we did down at their place, that we could get a good foothold in the game and make things difficult for them, and that’s exactly what we did.
“We managed to get that early goal and we carried on from there. We really dominated them today, especially in that first half, and consolidated in the second. It’s been one of our better performances during my time at the Club.”
The 27-year-old was full of praise for goalscorers Holmes and Hayhurst after the game, revealing his delight in particular at the Republic of Ireland youth international’s recent performances.
Hayhurst had struggled for minutes earlier in the season, with only one late substitution appearance against Walsall his only contribution to the side in 2013.
But after starting for the first time this calendar year against Bournemouth, the 19-year-old has since scored three goals in three games, and Wroe confessed he expects Hayhurst to keep on improving.
“That’s football. Everything can change around so quickly. Will’s took his opportunity against Bournemouth with both hands, and he’s just gone from there and kept his place in the side,” Wroe observed.
“He keeps gambling at the back post and it’s paying off for him. Credit it to him, he keeps getting his rewards.
“You’ve got to be there to finish them and that’s exactly what he’s doing, making the most of defenders switching off and sneaking in to tuck them away. It’s brilliant for him, he’s flying.
“It was a great finish from Lee. It’s what he’s capable of. That extra bit of quality. He does that sort of thing week in, week out in training so it was no surprise when he put that away today. He’s just that sort of player.”
Wroe also paid tribute to the fans after the match, as 9,000 turned out to see Grayson’s first game in charge at Deepdale.
“The fans were terrific today,” Wroe acknowledged. “Against Bournemouth our performance made sure they went home with a good feeling.
“Obviously since then the new manager’s come in and we’ve had a couple of away games. We’ve put in some good performances, but the fans haven’t had the chance to see us at home before today.
“That good feeling’s carried on again today and we gave them even more to cheer about.”
John Mousinho made his first appearance in two months as he returned from injury against his former club, and Wroe confessed the squad’s delight at 26-year-old’s appearance, revealing he welcomes the extra competition the North End’s captain’s return would bring.
“It’s good to have the skipper back,” Wroe said. “He obviously hasn’t had the greatest season as he’s struggled a lot with injuries, but the more minutes he can get on the pitch, the more he can benefit the squad.
“The competition for places is huge now and obviously good for the squad. If there is somebody there looking to take your place it only makes you try to perform better yourself to stay in the side.”
With games coming thick and fast in the final weeks of the season, Wroe acknowledged how important it was for the Lilywhites to keep picking up results and build momentum heading into next season, as they prepare for another push at promotion.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up in the next few weeks, with a lot of midweek games around the corner. It’s important that we keep on picking up good results and make the most of the quick turnaround so we can try and go on a run,” Wroe said.
“We need to keep winning as many games as possible now and try and build up momentum and stay unbeaten into the end of the season. If we can do that then hopefully we can carry it over into the beginning of next season, build on it from there then who knows where we could end up.”