Lift-off at last for PNE striker says boss

Preston striker Joe Garner is off the mark
Preston striker Joe Garner is off the mark
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Simon Grayson has backed Preston North End striker Joe Garner to hit a run of form now that he had got off the mark in the Championship.

Garner’s long wait for a goal ended against Blackburn on Saturday, coming in his 100th league appearance for the Lilywhites.

With that weight lifted off his shoulders, PNE manager Grayson hopes more goals will follow from his talisman.

“I thought Joe’s overall play was very good in the Blackburn game,” Grayson told the Evening Post.

“Joe held the ball up well, he worked hard and was a constant threat.

“He was up against two good centre-halves in Shane Duffy and Grant Hanley, who are strong and powerful players.

“I’m pleased that he finally got his goal and hopefully there are many more to come.

“We want him to get on a run and follow this one up over the coming games.

“Credit to him, he has never shied away and has continued to work hard up there.

“I don’t think his confidence ever took a dip, it was just a case of him getting the rub of the green.

“For his goal, he was sharp and sensed where the ball might drop.

“Perhaps it was written in the stars that Joe would score against his former club in what was his 100th league appearance for us.

“It was just unfortunate it was not an equaliser or the winner.”

Garner’s goal came in his 14th league appearance of the campaign.

The last time he had found the net in competitive action was in the second leg of the play-off semi-final against Chesterfield.

Garner is next in action on Saturday against Fulham, North End making their first visit to Craven Cottage for 15 years.

There could be a change of partner for him up front, as Grayson looks for more goals from his side.

Part-way through the second half against Blackburn, he put Stevie May on in place of Eoin Doyle, with Will Keane also coming off the bench.

The search for goals saw Grayson go with a 4-4-2 system against Rovers, having favoured 3-5-2 recently.

Said Grayson: “We went with a 4-4-2 but a narrow one, with Daniel Johnson on the right-hand side.

“We wanted to get DJ into pockets of space to try and affect the game from there.

“Then we had Adam Reach going down the other side, which I thought worked okay.

“We just needed a bit more quality in that final third.”

North End will be without the suspended Bailey Wright at Fulham, so too against Burnley the following week, the legacy of his red card in the closing stages of the Rovers game.

Calum Woods’ hamstring strain will be monitored as the week goes on, the defender having come off at half-time on Saturday.

The absence of Wright and possibly Woods too, means Tom Clarke’s return to fitness is a timely one.

He replaced Woods on Saturday, for his first slice of action since damaging his shoulder last month.

Grayson said: “Being without people is part and parcel of football. We have had spells this season where we’ve been without more players than might be the case on Saturday.

“We are without Bailey for two games and we’ll see how Calum is – he came off more as a precaution.

“Fulham is a game we’re looking forward to.”