PNE in search of tonic

Joe Garner
Joe Garner
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Preston North End return to league action tomorrow in search of a much-needed tonic after their exit from two cup competitions in the past week.

Last weekend’s FA Cup defeat to Millwall was followed by Thursday night’s dose of stoppage-time heartache at the hands of Coventry in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

It’s left them with just League One action to concentrate their minds on over the next three-and-a-half months.

And PNE boss Graham Westley is determined to make the most of the remaining 20 games.

Walsall are the visitors to Deepdale tomorrow (3pm), the ‘Sunday Funday’ offer seeing prices reduced to £10 adults, £5 Over-60s and £1 for juniors.

Although North End head into the weekend in 15th place, Westley is firm in his belief that the top six remains in reach of his side.

They are currently eight points behind MK Dons who occupy the last play-off slot and Westley’s men have played a game more.

Westley, who celebrates a year in charge of PNE tomorrow, said: “A realistic opportunity in terms of any silverware is to string together some results and force our way up the league.

“If the lads keep playing with the intensity, desire and quality they showed at times on Thursday and we get a consistent side on the pitch, I think they have a good opportunity to kick-on their season.

“That is the objective, that is what our focus is on.

“The pain you face when things don’t go your way can be a great motivator to make sure you don’t face it again.”

North End will run a fitness check over Stuart Beavon who picked up a hamstring strain scoring the second goal at Coventry and was substituted straight after.

Westley will be keen to have him involved as he looks to build the partnership between Beavon and new boy Joe Garner.

He saw early promise in it on Thursday night, with Lee Holmes playing behind them.

“We had some extra attacking quality out there against Coventry,” said Westley.

“It was nice to have Holmes back and Garner is a good addition.

“Maybe in the first half we lacked a bit of focus and over-played rather than get our crosses and shots away.

“But we added some attacking purpose in the second half.

“I felt the shape we used was the right way to approach things and we saw a lot of good things happen.

“The three lads up there varied their position well, Holmes is a very intelligent lad who makes good runs, as do Garner and Beavon.

“As a combination they looked a real handful and the early signs were very promising.”

There will be a change of goalkeeper tomorrow with Thorsten Stuckmann replacing Steve Simonsen who suffered knee cartilage damage late in the Coventry game.

Shane Cansdell-Sherriff is also ruled out with a groin strain, Chris Robertson replacing him 18 minutes into Thursday night’s contest.