Exclusive Sean Gregan column

PNE midfielder John Welsh challenges Cardiff's Joe Ralls
PNE midfielder John Welsh challenges Cardiff's Joe Ralls
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Preston North End are finding it a real struggle in that bottom three at the moment and until they can start scoring goals, will find it tough to climb upwards.

Defensively, they look quite sound, with the goalkeeper a real asset and the defenders did their job against Cardiff, keeping a clean sheet.

But this was a ninth league game without a win and goals have been in short supply.

Seven goalsin 11 games tells its own story and maybe North End need to look at playing a slightly more expansive style of play at home rather than setting up to be difficult to break down.

The flip side of the coin in throwing caution to the wind is that in this division, you can get picked off very easily by the quality on the break which some of the teams have.

In terms of scoring goals, Simon Grayson has not been helped by the selection issues which have come his way.

Joe Garner has been out suspended and apart from briefly in August, Grayson has not been able to call on the services of Jermaine Beckford because of injury.

Eoin Doyle could not play against Cardiff because they are his parent club.

It is that kind of disruption which has managers pulling their hair out.

It seems that just when Grayson wants to get a partnership together, something gets in the way.

He will have set his stall out before the season that Garner and Beckford would be his first-choice pairing.

They had struck up a great understanding last season, with Beckford’s pace stretching defences to allow Garner the room to play in.

Yet they haven’t had more than a few minutes on the pitch together this season and it will still be some weeks before we see Beckford back.

Getting a consistent spine of the team is vital, from front to back.

You want two strikers playing regularly together, the same applies to the centre of midfield and the centre-backs.

Around the sides is where managers don’t mind doing a bit of swapping and changing.

You can swap your wingers or wide midfielders, give them a breather.

But it is that spine where you need that consistency.

When I played at North End, it was Mark Rankine and myself in the middle much of the time,

There was the Jon Macken and David Healy partnership up front, Colin Murdock and Michael Jackson at the back.

If Grayson can get a pair of strikers together and have them playing consistently, I’m sure the goals will come.

Two long-distance away games now await North End, at Charlton in midweek and Brighton next Saturday.

You have got to look on the Charlton match as being one they have to get something from. There are only a couple of points between them, and this is a chance to climb up a few places.

The onus will be on the home side to attack which might suit Preston in the way they set up.

Who knows, it might be that North End can cause a shock at Brighton.

Sometimes that happens, a struggling side going to the leaders and pulling off a win when it is least expected.

This is a time when you need leaders in the side, people making themselves heard and guiding on the pitch.

I don’t think North End are too far away from hitting a run of results, it is just getting on the run in the first place which is the difficult part.

Hopefully we can start talking about wins and goals in the next few games.