Simon Grayson has lauded his Preston North End side’s fine home form this season ahead of the campaign’s final Deepdale outing this weekend.
The Lilywhites welcome relegated Rotherham United to PR1 on Saturday afternoon having lost just once on home turf in the Championship in 2017 along with another six victories and two draws.
The boss, however, pointed to January’s FA Cup tie against Arsenal – resulting in a narrow 2-1 win for the visitors – as the starting point for Deepdale becoming such a fortress.
“It starts really from the first week in January where we played Arsenal and gave them such a close run for their money,” Grayson told PNE PlayerHD. “Obviously they’ve now got to the FA Cup final – who’s to say that couldn’t be us?!
“It was all geared from that performance. That really set us up, the work rate and the quality, against one of the best teams in Europe. From then on, the players grew in stature and confidence, and to beat the likes of Huddersfield, Brighton and Reading, who are obviously very close to the play-offs and Brighton have been promoted.
“There were many other good performances as well. Key ones, goals, performances, clean sheets – it’s been very encouraging and there are some really good memories from it.”
North End sit 11th in the Championship with two games to go but had been within five points of the play-off places only a few weeks ago.
Grayson has been delighted with the season’s work and wants to see a celebratory-like atmosphere to match against the Millers this weekend.
“If somebody had offered us where we are at this moment in time, and where we’ve been flirting with for the last two or three months, everybody connected with the football club would’ve accepted it.
“When you get somewhere close and then don’t quite get over the line and it just drifts away a little bit, it can be looked on a little bit negatively. But it shouldn’t be, because the effort, the commitment the players have shown, the togetherness of that group, the togetherness of the supporters – it’s been a fantastic year for everybody connected with Preston North End. The last game of the season at home should be a one of celebration, of togetherness again.
“There will be farewells from players, supporters and ultimately to this season. We look forward to the Wolves game and then the summer when we’re ready and back for pre-season.”
That aside, the North End manager still wants to gain as many points as possible from the season’s remaining fixtures.
“You talk about the points, but the performances from individuals, the team this year has been of a real high quality and that’s why we’ve been where we are for large parts of this season – it’s been a successful one.
“We don’t want it to end on a real dampener, we need to make sure we finish the season in these last two games with as many points as possible.”