North End manager Simon Grayson struggled to find enough superlatives to salute his players following a terrific performance and result against Port Vale.
Including injury time, the Lilywhites played for 87 minutes with ten men following Neil Kilkenny’s early dismissal, yet still they claimed the three points in a 2-0 victory.
And the gaffer couldn’t praise the players enough following the full-time whistle.
Speaking to PNE.Com, Grayson said: “I don’t think you can put into words what the players have actually done tonight.
“This is the biggest pitch in the country, we go down to ten men very early in the game; we knew we had to work hard against a team that have won five out of six games.
“We knew we had to be really at it with and without the ball and we have done well.
“There is different ways of winning football matches, Saturday we played very well with it and tonight we had to defend with our lives, work hard as a team, and obviously we have come out with a fantastic result.
“I asked the players at half-time just to give whatever they have got in their bodies, to put it on the line and drain every little bit of energy out of them and they did that.
“They just worked so hard for each other and put the blocks in when they needed to.
“And we said at half-time when we were one-nil up that imagine the buzz in the dressing room if we manage to win this game with ten men against a good team, and as you can imagine the dressing room was very vocal and vibrant.
“I thought long and hard about what system to go and play tonight to start with, but then going down to ten men affects what we do and it was a big call taking Kevin Davies off, but maybe the big pitch and the second game in a short space of time would have probably killed Kevin off for Saturday.
“We knew we had to be hard to beat, and we got the goal and went to a 4-4-1 and Joe Garner, when you look at his performance tonight, leading the line with ten men, he’s playing with unbelievable confidence.”
As mentioned by Grayson, Garner was the main man for PNE once again, scoring both goals to make it seven in five matches.
And the gaffer was full of praise for his overall performance as well as his goal scoring exploits.
“It’s not just his goals but his all round game,” continued the manager.
“He is a handful for any defender at this moment in time and he is getting his just rewards.
“People talked last year about Joe Garner and he is this, that and the other and not doing much for the Club, well we see players on a daily basis in training and he is showing what he is capable of doing over this little run of games he is in at the moment.
“His confidence is obviously sky high, and when you are shooting from that far out, you are doing it because you believe in your ability and that you can actually score.
“Some people might shoot from that distance and think they’ll shoot because it is the right thing to do, not believing they can score, but Joe knows that he can shoot from distance.
“He was running around, winning headers, his hold up play, he gave the two Port Vale centre halves a real tough time up there on his own and he can be pleased and proud and happy with how he is playing at this moment in time.”
North End were resolute in defence as well as clinical in attack at Vale Park, and there was some outstanding contributions from the bench to go with the 11 who started, Will Hayhurst and Keith Keane both coming in for praise from Grayson.
“Will Hayhurst has had to remain patient, we lost Lee Holmes to a tight hamstring tonight so Will showed tonight that he is very capable and that he will give everything for the team.
“Keith Keane has been left out for the last couple of games and slotted back in to the team straight away.
“11 can only start on a Saturday and the rest have to wait for opportunities, and when they do come about they have to take them.
“It is a squad game and we have got a real good squad in terms of quality and the spirit within the dressing room.
“The defence done everything they had to do, they defending things into the box, they are a big strong powerful team, they put balls in the box from many angles, and you have to stand up and be counted and be resilient.
“You can’t speak highly enough about what they have done tonight.
“They have come up against a real, strong, powerful team, and people like Jack King, his third game in the team at centre half, looks like he has played there all his career.”