Preston North End manager Simon Grayson is looking for a positive performance and result to end his team’s Deepdale campaign on a high this weekend.
“It is important we finish on a high,” he said. “There has been a lot of good work at Deepdale throughout the whole season from everyone connected with the club.
“The last four results are not what we would have wanted, but we don’t want those four games to cloud what has been a really good season.
“People talk about finishing above where we did last year and if we do that with the level of competition in the Championship this season, it would be a good achievement.
“The way we have played, the way we have beaten teams, the fact we have scored more goals are all positives, but it is vital we finish in a positive manner, because it would leave everybody with a good vibe leaving Deepdale for the last time ahead of next season.
“It is vitally important, especially given we have lost four games on the trot and we obviously want to return to winning ways, and that is the bottom line.
“We want to win every game that we are involved in; it doesn’t matter whether it was Newcastle the other night or Rotherham this Saturday, because if we finish with more points and above where we did last season, that is one hell of an achievement given the budget that we have got.
“It just shows you what a good season we have got and why I want to remind everybody that the last four or five games shouldn’t cloud what a fantastic season it has been.
“To have been bordering on the Play-Offs for a long time, just shows how far we have come, when we could be finishing anything around ninth, tenth, 11th or 12th and people might be disappointed by that.
“It is only our second season back in the Championship and people on the outside might look and think ‘Preston have done well again’ and in the cold light of day they will look at the more established teams with bigger budgets, so it has been a great year for us.
“There have been some great individual performances, some real togetherness within the group, but a togetherness with the supporters and the football club as well.”
Looking back at recent results, the PNE chief is contemplative when it comes to ‘what could have been’ questions: “We are all disappointed because we felt that we were playing with confidence,” he said of the team missing out on a Play-Off spot.
“We knew that with the level of games coming up that it was going to be tough, but we felt that we were good enough to do it and that we are as good as anybody on their day in this division and we have shown that with the teams we have beaten and the fact we have given the teams who are going to be in the top six really good games.
“It is tinged with a little bit of disappointment, but when the fixtures came out in June everybody would have been delighted with where we have been and where we are going to finish.”
Alex Baptiste comes back into contention after suspension, but Paul Gallagher misses out, but will this be a chance for the manager to give some of his players who have been on the periphery a chance?
“Over the last few games, and the next two games, players have been playing for their futures. Players who have been in the team have got to be performing and if they are not you might think ‘we might need to replace ‘X’ with ‘Z’ coming in, in the summer.
“If I was a player playing in the next two games then I would be saying to myself ‘I need to be doing enough in these games to make sure the manager has a positive vibe in his mind that I am going to be part of next season’ and if they don’t perform like they potentially can do, then I might have other thoughts that I can bring in better players.
“There are going to be a lot of players that will want to come and play for Preston North End and we have to improve again next year.
“Whatever team I pick on Saturday, it will be one to go and win the game.
“I don’t want to lose five games on the trot, that has happened very rarely at this club or in my career, so first and foremost, whatever team it is, we have to go and win the game and if that means one or two who haven’t played doing their bit, then so be it.
“It is simple; people who have not got game time have been kept out because the contributions of other players have kept them out.
“If I had left out some of the players doing well to give someone else a game I am sure supporters would have been up in arms. Players want to play in all the games and all those factors have to be considered and players playing to the best of their ability stay in the team and that’s been the only reason others have not had a look in.”
And what of the opposition? The Millers are preparing to look to try and bounce back to the Championship at the first attempt and Simon believes they still have plenty to play for.
“I am sure Rotherham will come and play with a freedom. They will be like every team, they will want to finish the season as positively as they can.
“Paul will have players who will be playing for their future next season. He will want to leave the season on a positive note to try and start next season in a good frame of mind to try and get back into the Championship next year.
“Within their group they will be hugely disappointed, but they have players in that group who are certainly good Championship players who can hurt you,” he added.