PNE boss is open minded

Josh Brownhill

Josh Brownhill

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Simon Grayson says he has an open mind about which players and formation will be used for Preston North End’s opening League One game next month.

The Lilywhites boss again took the opportunity to look at his full squad during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat against Liverpool at Deepdale.

Grayson fielded 24 players over the course of the afternoon, with the XI he picked for the first half the ones to catch the eye.

North End led going into the interval, Josh Brownhill finding the net from close range after a Joe Garner overhead kick had been saved by Reds keeper Brad Jones.

They held that advantage until late in the game when two goals in three minutes swung things in Liverpool’s favour.

Grayson said: “At the moment it is about getting players the game time, and they will play again tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday.

“People might try and work out what the side is going to be, but I have said many times that players can play themselves into the starting line-up and can play themselves out of it.

“We want them to work hard in the week and take that into the matches.

“I have no set ideas at the moment about which way we are going to play.

“Against Liverpool we played a different formation than we did last season.”

In the first half, Preston’s midfield trio of Neil Kilkenny, Alan Browne and Brownhill caught the eye.

Joe Garner played up front, with Will Hayhurst and Paul Gallagher for company on the wings.

Said Grayson: “In the first half, Kilkenny held things together and the two young kids got forward and gave us plenty of energy.

“Then we had the movement of Joe, Will and Gally up there which was good. I was pleased with the first half, especially against the strength of the side which Liverpool had put out.

“We didn’t go chasing it and we didn’t get picked off, we probably worked Brad Jones more than they did Jamie Jones.”

The narrow defeat in front of a crowd of 17,488 was in contrast to 12 months ago when Liverpool were comfortable 4-0 winners.

Grayson puts that down to the PNE squad being in better shape now. He said: “I think we have a stronger squad than this time last year.

“The ones who have come into the squad have shown what they are capable of doing.

“Then there has also been the progress made by the younger lads too. There were some good performances on Saturday and a lot to build on for the rest of pre-season.

“For them to have given a good account of themselves against Liverpool is a boost.”

The one casualty from the weekend was centre-half Paul Huntington. He suffered a suspected fracture of the wrist in a collision with Martin Skrtel early in the second half.

Huntington had the injury strapped up and played on until the 78th minute.

It is likely that he will be able to continue training and playing wearing a light cast if a fracture is confirmed.

North End visit Bamber Bridge tomorrow night (7pm).