Exclusive Bailey Wright PNE column

'We still have eyes on making the play-offs this season'

'We still have eyes on making the play-offs this season'

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A few people have mentioned to me recently that our defensive formation harks back to a bygone era in Preston North End’s history.

I think it was the old North End manager, the late and great John McGrath, who utilised three central defenders in the late 1980s.

Sam Allardyce, Bob Atkins and Alex Jones were the foundations of a successful PNE side which won promotion from the old Fourth Division in 1987.

McGrath famously said that the trio’s surnames – when said together – sounded like a firm of solicitors.

I don’t think I have heard our boss Simon Grayson make a similar analogy when describing me or my fellow defenders, but I guess Clarke, Wright and Huntington has a similar ring to it. The three centre-halves with wing-backs is a system which the gaffer has utilised many times over the three years he has been at the club.

I have been lucky enough to figure in many of those formations and the majority of the time, it’s been alongside skipper Tom and Hunts.

It has been great playing with those two and we have all got to know each other’s games pretty well.

Saying that, we don’t always play as a three. We’ve played in a back four and I think we enjoy playing together no matter what the formation is.

On Tuesday against Nottingham Forest, the gaffer started off with a three at the back, but then changed the system to a 4-3-3.

I think the team has shown that it is capable of playing in a variety of different ways.

The 1-0 defeat to Forest was a little setback for us because we have got ourselves in a position where we are looking to push on.

I think there were some good points – and not so good points – from our trip to the City Ground.

We probably deserved a little bit more out of the game than we got, but they hurt us on the counter-attack and that is what they set out to do.

We stayed in 10th spot in the Championship but are now seven points shy of Sheffield Wednesday, who occupy the final play-off position.

At the start of the season, the aim was to consolidate our place in the division and that meant focusing totally on every game and trying to win it.

It looks like we have achieved that aim, but our mentality has not changed.

With 10 games of the season left, our aim is to go out to try to win all of them and then see where it takes us.

Finishing inside the play-offs is still a realistic target for us – I don’t see why we can’t do that.

There is still a lot for us to play for this season.

We all want to be fighting for that shirt so that we are out on the pitch every Tuesday or Saturday.

Some people on the outside may think that the pressure is off us, now that we have achieved our No.1 objective, but I can assure you that is not true.

As a squad, you set new goals as the season progresses.

We might have achieved one goal, but why not set another?

With the group of players we have got here, our goal is not just to settle for what we have.

Of course, our goal is to enjoy the rest of the season, but to enjoy it we want to be pushing for the play-offs and winning games of football.

This weekend, we have got a big derby to look forward to when we visit Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium.

That’s the great thing about being in the Championship this season – there is lots of local rivalry and bragging rights at stake.

So far this season our fortunes in the local derbies has been mixed.

We lost to Blackburn Rovers at Deepdale, but then beat Burnley at Turf Moor.

Our first match against Bolton at home back at the end of October ended in a 0-0 draw, so hopefully we can get our second derby win of the season on Saturday.

It’s the annual Gentry Day for the supporters, so I will be looking out for all the bowler hats in the away end.

I believe there is going to be a big following and we will be looking to get the three points, but it’s not going to be easy.

Bolton have obviously had their problems this season.

They are bottom of the table and have had plenty of issues off the pitch to contend with.

Their record at home is not too bad for a team which is at the foot of the table – they have lost only four and drawn 10.

It’s a nice stadium for us to look forward to going to and we’ll prepare in the right manner. Hopefully, we will get the win.