PNE take aim at the play-offs

Joe Garner scored his 100th career goal in midweek
Joe Garner scored his 100th career goal in midweek
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Preston North End might not be so prolific in front of goal but that has not stopped them getting within sight of the play-off mix.

The Lilywhites have climbed to ninth place with 32 goals in their 33 Championship games.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals in the division but that is balanced out by PNE boasting the joint-fifth best defence.

The goals are starting to come though, seven hitting the net in the run of four wins.

Those have been scored since the transfer window shut when North End decided against doing any late business to bolster the attack.

In that time, Joe Garner has netted twice – his header in Tuesday night’s win against Charlton Athletic the 100th goal of his career.

Alan Browne, Adam Reach, Paul Gallagher, Callum Robinson and an own goal have been on the scoresheet.

Preston boss Simon Grayson told the Evening Post: “You look at the Charlton game and we got in decent situations to score more than we did.

“We had a goal disallowed and a couple of near misses which meant that at 2-1 we were a little bit vulnerable.

“However, I thought we saw the game out really well and got a welcome three points.

“It would be nice to get three or four goals sometimes but I will take a win by any score at this level.

“We are going well – to put four wins together is very good – and we will look to get another good result at Cardiff now.”

Daniel Johnson still leads the Deepdale scoring charts with seven league goals and one in the Capital One Cup.

Garner has now drawn level with Paul Gallagher on five Championship goals, with Reach on four.

Robinson’s winner against Charlton has got him up and running in his third spell on loan from Aston Villa.

Said Grayson: “Callum has been looking nice and sharp in training and it was good to see him affect the game after coming off the bench.

“He is desperate to get an opportunity to start, as are a number of other lads.

“But when the team are doing well, it is not easy to bring people into the team.”

It required a tactical switch to get the better of Charlton in the second half.

For the third game running, North End had started with a 3-5-1-1 system, with Reach playing off Garner up front.

That was a system which was matched – surprisingly – by the Addicks.

Grayson changed to 4-3-3 at the interval, substituting Bailey Wright and putting Robinson in attack with Garner and Reach.

“When we have watched Charlton, they have never played three at the back, so it was a bit of a surprise when I saw their team-sheet before the game,” said Grayson.

“They have either played 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3, so for them to change was a compliment to us I suppose. I had thought about the change to 4-3-3 just before half-time but I decided to leave it until the interval.

“Sometimes a decision to change can work, sometimes it does not.”

It might well be that North End revert to three at the back for Saturday’s visit to Cardiff.

They will not be able to call on Eoin Doyle for the trip to Wales, as the striker – a sub for the last five games – is on loan from the Bluebirds and cannot face his parent club.