PNE set the bar high

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Simon Grayson says the challenge for his Preston North End squad over the course of the season is to live up to the standards they set in yesterday’s drew with promotion favourites Middlesbrough.

The Lilywhites earned a very creditable point from the goalless draw at Deepdale and arguably created the better chances in the televised clash.

Greg Cunningham

Greg Cunningham

Midfielder John Welsh came in for special praise for the job he did in nullifying the threat of Boro playmaker Stewart Downing.

And PNE boss Grayson felt the side had been solid from front to back against the visitors from Teesside.

“This was never going to be an easy game and the players came out of it with a lot of credit,” said Grayson.

“We had spoken to the lads during the week and told them that a good performance could give them confidence for the rest of the season.

“The standard has been set now and we don’t want the players to drop below that standard now.

“We go to Crewe, then to MK Dons and Rotherham.

“Yesterday was a good start for us and hopefully we can maintain that type of performance.

“The games are demanding mentally and physically and we want to keep adding to what we did yesterday. We knew that it was going to be a very tough game against Middlesbrough. What was important was that we stuck to the game plan which we had trained with for the last 10 days.

“The players worked very hard to carry out that game plan and on another day we could quite easily have scored a couple of goals.

“We set up in a way where we would be very solid down the middle of the pitch because Middlesbrough like to try and play through you.”

Grayson handed debuts to Greg Cunningham, Jordan Pickford, Will Keane and Marnick Vermijl after their summer moves to Deepdale

All started the game, with Grayson pleased what what he saw of them.

“Marnick only joined us a couple of days before the game and is still coming to terms with how we want to play,” said Grayson.

“I thought Greg slotted in really well and Will was a constant threat up front.

“Jordan was composed in what he did and he kicked the ball unbelievably well.”

PNE were without Jermaine Beckford because of injury, so too Jamie Jones – Steven James named on the bench.

Said Grayson: “Jermaine got a knock a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t trained since.

“It was something I wasn’t going to make the public aware of because that is how I work.

“He is making good progress and hopefully might be back in contention for the weekend.

“Jamie just tweaked his groin in training the other day.

“Steven James should have been going to Bamber Bridge on loan, instead he found himself on the bench for our first Championship game.”