Manager Simon Grayson was not hiding from the fact that Saturday’s match against Leyton Orient is a big one.
The PNE boss spoke to the media on Thursday morning and didn’t try to conceal the view in the camp that the match is an important one, but was also keen to stress that it was still only worth three points out of 51 still available.
“This is one of our biggest games of the season, but you don’t get more points by beating someone around you, than you do someone at the bottom,” he said. “There is no getting away from the fact that it is a big game and if we can get the three points we will close the gap on them, which would give us a boost, but if it went the other way, they’d be delighted and pulling away.
“There are so many games still to play and you just have to do what you can do and see where that takes you. The whole group are looking forward to the game; it should be a big gate and atmosphere and hopefully people can turn out and watch the team play positively and get the right result.”
The visitors have hit a tricky patch of late, but Simon believes that a game in Lancashire could be the motivation the O’s need to put on a performance.
“They have lost the last three and Russell will be doing everything he can to make sure there is a reaction and this could be the best game for them; coming to Deepdale, with a good atmosphere, against one of the top teams in the division.
“We are fully aware of what they are capable of doing and, full credit to them, they have been up there all season. They are there to be shot at, as Brentford and Wolves are, but they’ve had a fantastic season and Russell will be emphasising to his players that they don’t want to waste the opportunity they have given themselves with the start to the season they have had.
“We have always said that every team is going to have a bad run of results, it is how you respond to them.
“They were flying when we went down there and we put on a really professional performance. We limited them to few opportunities when they were scoring loads of goals and the front two were a handful, but it counts for nothing this weekend. It is about what we can do this weekend. We have a different shape to the squad now and they have one or two different personnel in as well, so it will be a case of who can perform to their best on the day.
“I’d like to think that we are a better team now. I’d also like to think we are improving all the time and as managers and coaches it is our duty to ensure we don’t standstill; we have to improve on a day-to-day basis, test the players, keep challenging them, making them better as individuals and a better as a team. I feel the shape of the squad is in a better condition, because they are all available and they are all pushing each other.”
The country and the north west has been battered by high winds and rain in the last few days, weeks and months, but the manager was full of praise for the groundstaff at Springfields and Deepdale, having not missed a day of training as they prepare for a vital run of games.
“Full credit to our groundstaff, we have got out there every day that we have needed to,” he continued. “The pitches have been a little bit heavy, but there are in a much better condition than this time last year when we were about to come into the football club and we have got the work done that we needed to do, so everything is going to plan and hopefully everything we have worked on in the last few weeks and the next few days will bear fruit over the next few weeks and months.
“The games now come thick and fast and we want to win as many games as possible. We keep challenging the players to achieve whatever they are capable of doing, by working hard in training and going and enjoying their football on a Saturday.
“You can see them doing that. You do work incredibly hard for the shirt; they give the supporters something to shout about and they do genuinely enjoy what they are doing.”