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Simon Grayson Says Players Must Play With Their Heads

26 January 2015

Manager Simon Grayson says the Lilywhites must play with their heads as well as their hearts in the second leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Final.

North End make the trip to the Banks’s Stadium knowing that nothing less than a victory by two clear goals will be enough to give them a chance of earning a place in the showpiece Wembley Final against either Bristol City or Gillingham in March.

Speaking ahead of the trip down the M6, the gaffer said his side need to be sensible, but must have the attacking freedom needed to get the goals required.

“We have to make sure we play with our heads as well as our hearts,” he said. “We don’t want to be too gung-ho; too open and expansive and get hit by a sucker punch, but we will go there, be hard to beat and have a freedom to express ourselves to get the goals we need as well.

“If we are still in the game and Walsall can still see Wembley on the horizon, they will have to get over the line. Sometimes the hardest thing is getting over the winning line. You do all the hard work, but then getting over the line is the difficult part.

“We have a huge amount of respect for Walsall; they beat us in the first leg and they beat us down there earlier this season; so maybe it is our turn to get a victory?

“You know that they will come out with the fans right behind the team, looking to get that third goal as quickly as possible, but we have to have the composure to play the game and not the occasion.

“We need to make sure that we have the quality when the opportunities arise to punish them, because we do feel we will get opportunities, as we have done against every team we have played against.”

Two late goals at Deepdale in the first leg gave the Saddlers the advantage and the PNE chief is well aware of the uphill battle his team face to turn around the deficit.

“We have a massive mountain to climb, but it is something we can achieve. We have a group of players that are determined to do it – we have nothing to lose and they have everything to lose,” he continued.

“What they do is their own business – we have to put out a team that has the belief we can go down there and get a result and we have. We have a group that are determined to give their all for 90 minutes, because they have worked so hard to get to this stage of the competition.

“There is still a massive opportunity to get to Wembley and the players won’t give up on that opportunity lightly, I can assure every one of that. We will be going there to turn this around.”

And as was seen in a number of games at the weekend, being 2-0 up can often not mean a lot – the third goal in this two-legged tie being vitally important.

“Everyone knows that 2-0 can be a precarious scoreline. If we go there and get the first goal then it is ‘game on’.

“Comebacks came about over the weekend where teams were 2-0 up and we will go to Walsall full of belief and give it our best shot.

“It would be nice to score early, but away goals don’t count double, so even if we score in the 88th and 89th minute it doesn’t matter, because two goals gets us level and that would take us into the lottery of penalties,” added the 45-year-old.

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