Simon Grayson praised his players’ ability to adapt after a change of system and another fine friendly performance secured a highly credible draw against Premier League-bound Leicester City.
The North End boss was therefore entirely content to end the summer warm-up fixtures on a positive note, and gave credit to the 21 players that helped to achieve it on another afternoon of squad rotation. He explained:
“We obviously knew the level of the opposition that we were going to be against – we knew that they were going to have plenty of the ball with their fantastic pace, movement and rotation, so we had to be disciplined without the ball.
“We coped with those key elements and when we got the ball we caused them a few problems, so all in all it was a satisfying performance.
“We’ve tried different formations all throughout the pre-season games and sometimes, depending on the level of the opposition, you have to be respectful, so today we’ve played that way, but it’s not to say that we can’t switch to a different system at any time of the season or a match.”
All of the planned experimentation has led Grayson to a satisfying position ahead of the SkyBet League One opening fixture against Notts County in a week’s time, and after a preparation programme during which only European giants Liverpool managed to topple Preston, the boss is clear as to the direction his team is heading this season.
“I’ve got a really close idea of where I think we’re going to be for the starting 11 in our first game,” he admitted.
“Certain players have come out with a lot of credit from the pre-season games – that’s what it’s there for. When we came back for pre-season, everyone started on a level playing field and one or two players can be very pleased with how they’ve done for themselves.
“It isn’t necessarily all about results, because we’re looking for what we can see within the performances, but it’s all about being positive, and that’s what we’ve achieved.
“If these were league games this week, we would certainly have settled for three points against Burnley and one against Leicester but it’s all boding well for the season. We’ve got a bit of work to be done on the training pitch but I think everybody is now sensing what it around the corner and can’t wait for it to start.
“I’m pleased with the new signings. I think they’ve settled really well into the group with the work they’ve done both on the training pitch, and out there on the pitch where they’ve settled into the system and how we play very easily. That’s testament to them, and the group we had already got as well.”
There were a handful of players unavailable to Grayson at Deepdale, with Neil Kilkenny rested as a precaution and Paul Gallagher ineligible under the terms of his loan transfer from the Foxes, but having seen so much of his players in action over the course of the past month, the manager concluded that he is content with how the work-out has rounded off, concluding:
“Killer came off with a bit of a tight calf on Tuesday night, so that was just a bit of a precaution and we’d expect him to be back in training for the early part of next week.
“Similarly we only gave Joe Garner only ten or fifteen minutes today, and with Paul Gallagher, we were respecting the decision of the loan agreement, so apart from that we were able to give everyone plenty of game time over the past couple of games.”