Draw felt like a defeat for PNE

Tom Clarke
Tom Clarke
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Simon Grayson admits that Preston North End have to improve their ‘game management’ after seeing two vital promotion points slip away at Stevenage last night.

North End led until stoppage-time thanks to Tom Clarke’s first-half goal, but victory was cruelly snatched away from them when Jimmy Smith hammered home Boro’s equaliser.

It is not the first time that Grayson’s men have conceded late equalisers, and the Lilywhites boss s
ays that is a habit which needs stubbing out.

The 1-1 draw kept them in fourth place, three points ahead of Rotherham who have a game in hand.

But the top three - Wolves, Leyton Orient and Brentford - all won to increase the gap.

Grayson, who thought PNE should have had a penalty when Joe Garner was brought down shortly before Boro’s leveller, said: “We were very disappointed not to have won the 
game, we dominated it for 95%.

“You know you are in for a strong game down there but we withstood everything that Stevenage threw at us.

“They played the channels, hit the strikers, played for a lot of second balls, but we matched them.

“We controlled the game apart from for that last five minutes or so when we didn’t see the game out when we should have done.

“For the penalty claim, Joe has run across and the lad has clipped him – it should have been a penalty, but we didn’t get it.

“Otherwise, I thought that the referee was strong.

“I thought it was a penalty, Joe said it was and even their lad has half admitted it was.

“But we didn’t see the game out in a professional manner like we should have done.

“We got a free-kick and clipped it straight into the goalkeeper’s hands which gave them possession back.

“They went straight down the other end and scored.

“We could have done something about it.

“It is frustrating that we have had a few results over the last few weeks when we have conceded late goals and we have to be better with our game management.

“It felt like a defeat after controlling the game for 95%.

“This was never going to be easy, but when you controlled it like we did, it is disappointing.

“They never threatened our goal until just before the end.

“We are disappointed to have dropped two points.”

Grayson said his team selection had been influenced by the physical approach he expected from Boro who are managed by ex-Preston boss Graham Westley.

He said: “Keith Keane and John Welsh were very good in the middle of the park, they dominated and won a lot of second balls.

“I picked a team to be able to cope with the physical nature of Stevenage and played three out-and-out centre-halves.

“We had Kevin Davies instead of Craig Davies for his physical presence.”