Graham Westley insists he is not looking down at the relegation zone despite Preston North End’s slump in form
North End face Yeovil at Huish Park tonight (7.45pm) in desperate need of a return to winning ways.
Having collected just one league victory in three months, Westley’s side have dropped to within five points of the bottom four.
Patience is wearing thin at the top of the club with the way results have gone, and many supporters appear to have lost faith with the current regime.
So a huge amount of focus will be fixed on events in Somerset as PNE go head-to-head with the in-form Glovers.
Lilywhites boss Westley said: “Some of the boys are looking over their shoulder, that is for sure.
“Keith Keane text me over the weekend to say, ‘We are in a relegation battle’.
“That is one way of looking at it and it will probably do the squad good to think that way.
“As for myself, I never look over my shoulder – my focus is always forward.
“I don’t really look at what is behind me.
“It’s what is in front of you which really counts.
“For me it’s about winning the next game, it is only ever about that.
“Providing we win the next game and get some back-to-back wins together, what is going on behind you doesn’t matter.
“I don’t mind people thinking about a relegation battle.
“If people get motivated by a fear of failure, then it pays for them to contemplate it.
“If that is what it takes to wind them up, then all well and good.
“The feeling of winning motivates me and has done so all of my life, although I’m desperately short of that right now.
“But I’m hungrier than ever at the moment – that is driving me on.”
Westley will be forced into a change in defence tonight, with Bailey Wright serving a one-match suspension for his red card at Colchester.
Paul Huntington will be his replacement, the 25-year-old getting to face his former club.
He spent two seasons with the Glovers before joining North End last summer.
Said Westley: “We didn’t want to lose Bailey, but having Paul to come in is a bonus.
“He’s going back to his old club, and returning to what motivates you, Paul will be wanting to put on a good show.”
Huntington’s last start was in the FA Cup defeat at Millwall in January, although he has been a late substitute in the last two games.
Whether Stuart Beavon and Jack King will be available this evening remains to be seen.
Both missed the Colchester defeat through injury, with this weekend’s game against Bournemouth a more likely return date.
Joel Byrom is definitely ruled out with a muscle tear and will undergo surgery later this week to repair the damage.
The operation is likely to sideline the midfielder for six weeks.
PNE have beaten Yeovil twice this season in the league and FA Cup.
Westley said: “I’m sure Yeovil will feel that they want to answer us back.
“Their motivation will come from wanting to get into the play-off places and from their issues with us.”