Simon Grayson insisted that North End’s 2-1 win over Oldham Athletic had been his team’s toughest match of the season to date following victory at Deepdale.
The Lilywhites were made to work for the three points against a slick Latics team who matched them all the way, but PNE held on to claim their first home win of the season in front of the Sky cameras and more than 10,000 fans inside the ground.
Speaking to the press after the encounter, Grayson said: “I would say that was our toughest match of the season because the way they play, they can cause teams a lot of problems, they have got the energy, they have got some decent quality, they have got a few mavericks who can do things out of nothing and full credit to them that we had to change our system to try and compliment them, but we will accept the victory because that’s what it is all about, winning matches.
“We have gone into the top six now and hopefully we can try and stay there for a long time.
“We knew that Oldham play with a tempo, they’ve got some good quality and they were going to be a tough test for us tonight.
“When you look over the course of the game, ‘should we have won the game?, possibly not’, because they had some good chances, they kept possession well, they closed us down, didn’t allow us to dictate the play, but we had to do whatever was required to go and win the game, putting bodies on the line, heading things in and around that six yard box, 18 yard box when set pieces were being delivered, so ultimately it
is about winning the game.
“We have and we will play better than that and not win games, but you take three points and that’s all that matters.
“When you play the system that we play with the three centre halves, you can get caught in grey areas, when to close the opposition full backs down or the wide players and we was getting too many grey areas and their movement was causing us problems, so we made a decision to go to a 4-4-2, match them up and just play up against whoever our players where playing up against to try and win individual battles.
“We said at half-time that we hadn’t got going and we’re 2-0 up and we need to do better and stop the ball and stop them from playing and we also had to do better when we had it.
“We gave it away too cheaply at times hence why you put yourself under pressure sometimes, but in a couple of days’ time and a couple of weeks’ time, everybody will just look back on a 2-1 victory for us and it’s three valuable points.”
Despite Stuart Beavon and Kevin Davies grabbing their first goals of the 2013/14 season – the latters a penalty which he also won, PNE goalkeeper Declan Rudd was announced as the man of the match, after a string of impressive saves and dealing with countless dangerous crosses into his box over the course of the evening.
Speaking about Rudd, the gaffer added: “I thought Declan Rudd was outstanding, there was some big lads and there was some good delivery going in to there and he caught most things and when he didn’t catch it he was punching it away.
“He got battered by a few people but he kept on coming for things and he had to show a different side to his game because people have seen a lot of his shot stopping since he has been here, but he showed a different side to him and that’s why we signed him and we are delighted to have him for the year.”
And discussing Beavon’s opener which came from a Joel Byrom free kick, Grayson continued: “Stuart Beavon will definitely claim it and they were saying that Joel Byrom pointed to Beav as he was quite free in the box, so it was quite deliberate, I’m not sure it was quite as deliberate as the two players are making out but we will certainly take that!
“It gave us the platform to get the penalty and I thought it was a penalty, obviously Kevin Davies is delighted to get his first goal with a great penalty, but we had opportunities in the second-half to really seal the game off.
“We had two golden opportunities for Beav and Kev in the space of a couple of minutes and that would have been game over, but we knew that the game wasn’t over because of the way that Oldham played and the threat that they have from set pieces.”