PNE can bank on Garner

Joe Garner with his Football League Awards trophies
Joe Garner with his Football League Awards trophies
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Simon Grayson thinks the double award for striker Joe Garner can be used as a boost for Preston North End’s promotion push.

The Deepdale hitman was named League One’s player of the year at the Football League Awards in London and won goal of the year for the whole league too.

PNE face Notts County at Meadow Lane tonight, the first of three huge matches.

Win them all and North End will be playing Championship football next season, no matter what rivals MK Dons do.

Should points be dropped, anxious eyes will be cast in the direction of MK’s results.

Lilywhites manager Grayson believes Garner’s accolades were thoroughly deserved.

And after the striker ended a five-game barren run with a penalty at Port Vale on Friday night, it is hoped more goals will come from his boots over the next 13 days.

“It is fantastic for Joe to get the recognition he has had,” said Grayson.

“To win the player of the year award in front of some very good League One players – and having had 10 weeks 
out – speaks volumes for Joe.

“A huge amount of credit goes to him for his desire and work-rate during games, as well as the work he did to get back fit after his operation.

“The player of the year award wasn’t one voted for by the public where you can get on your phone and vote – sometimes the result can be a little bit misleading.

“All the managers in the division had to put their top four players in and every manager has obviously given Joe a glowing reference.

“He is a confident lad anyway but when you get two awards like this, it can really give your confidence and ego a massive boost.

“I think Joe will be the first to recognise that the players alongside him have helped him get the award with the assists and team effort. This is a confident camp at the moment, regardless of the two results last week.

“We have the belief and confidence that we can go and get the results we need.

“The awards for Joe could give us that extra little bit we need in the last three games.”

While acknowledging the draws with Gillingham and Port Vale were points thrown away, Grayson was pleased with aspects of the displays.

It was just North End’s game management in the final stages which frustrated the manager.

“I’ll repeat myself by saying that a few weeks ago, we would have taken this position of being a point clear with three games left,” said Grayson.

“We have a fantastic squad who are focused on what we need to do.

“We were disappointed to have dropped four points last week, having played some really good stuff.

“That is a really big thing for me at the moment – we aren’t going into the last three games on the back of poor performances.

“In the first half of both the Gillingham and Port Vale games, we blew them away in terms of the number of attempts on goal we had and stopping them having chances.

“What we didn’t do though, was see the games out in the way we would have wanted.

“Our ball retention wasn’t good enough. At Port Vale the second half ended up like a basketball game with us attacking and then giving the ball away which gave them their opportunity.

“We need to be like we were at Bradford, keeping the ball and making the opposition work hard.

“This is a time when we all need to stick together.

“The away following will be brilliant at Notts County, as it was at Port Vale and all the other games. We all want to achieve the same goal.”