Looking up but second will do for PNE boss

Daniel Johnson has been scoring for fun

Daniel Johnson has been scoring for fun

  • Bristol City 13 points clear at top
  • PNE have games in hand
  • Robins still to visit Deepdale
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Preston North End manager Simon Grayson has not totally lost sight of Bristol City at the top of League One but admits it is second place which his side is realistically battling for.

The Lilywhites will look to strengthen their place in the automatic promotion slots when Crewe visit Deepdale tomorrow.

If we remain where we are with a game to go and four points clear, then we can relax

Above them, Bristol City are 13 points clear and seemingly on course for the title.

Things are tighter below that, North End two points better off than Swindon and four ahead of MK Dons.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “I’m not going to say that it is over and no one can catch Bristol City.

“We have got two games in hand on them and they have to play here.

“If we win all those we would end up four points behind them, which isn’t a big gulf.

“But just at the moment we are embroiled in a tough battle with three or four others clubs to get in the top two.

“What Bristol City do is in their hands and I am only concerned with what we can affect.”

Now that PNE have climbed into second place, Grayson is determined to stay there.

It took some hard graft to hit back from their January dip and get themselves going on the current unbeaten run in which they have taken 19 points from a possible 21.

Grayson thinks that staying up in automatic contention will require an even greater effort.

“As a manager you are always looking to improve and we are certainly not going to get complacent and think we have achieved anything.

“We are far from secure in the place where we want to be.

“If we remain where we are with a game to go and four points clear, then we can relax.

“From my point of view we have to improve every week and work as hard as possible.

“As soon as we finished at MK Dons last Saturday, I told the players that the Crewe game was going to be of more significance because of the expectancy.

“This week has been about being thoroughly prepared for a big game for us.”

Grayson is likely to stick with an unchanged side for a third successive game.

Daniel Johnson will be looking to score for the fourth home game running, the midfielder having netted against Scunthorpe, Walsall and Doncaster.

With another goal added to his tally away to Oldham, he has hit the ground running after a £50,000 January move from Aston Villa.

Said Grayson: “I think what we have benefited from with Daniel are the two loans he had with other clubs.

“It is always a bit of a gamble to take someone on their first loan, in terms of them settling.

“Daniel experienced this league at two other clubs and that has helped him here.

“He is a good kid who wants to play well and learn.

“Up to last week, he scored four goals in four games and even at MK Dons he could have had a couple.”