PNE boss throws down gauntlet

Stevie May returns to his former club Sheffield Wednesday today

Stevie May returns to his former club Sheffield Wednesday today

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Preston North End’s strikers have been challenged to keep Joe Garner out of the team when he returns from suspension.

Garner starts a three-match suspension today when PNE visit Sheffield Wednesday.

The next few weeks are an opportunity for Stevie May, Will Keane, Eoin Doyle and Jordan Hugill to try and nail down a regular start.

North End manager Simon Grayson said: “In all areas of the pitch you are trying to get partnerships going and people understanding each other.

“Someone is going to get a role to play while Joe is out.

“If they do well, that might keep Joe out of the team when he comes back from his ban.

“That has to be an incentive for someone – if they do well over the next three games, I’m not afraid to leave Joe on the bench after that.

“If that happens, it means we have done something right over the next few weeks.

“It is not an area of the squad in which we are short of players. Jordan, Stevie, Eoin and Will are all available, they are decent options to have.”

In May’s case, today’s game is a chance to face the side who sold him to North End last month after just a year at Hillsborough.

The Scotsman played 42 games for Wednesday last season after joining from St Johnstone.

But an influx of new signings in the summer left him surplus to requirements and he joined North End on deadline day.

Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal has no regrets about letting May leave. He said: “We got an offer so it was natural to let him leave here.

Click here to see May’s first impressions of life at PNE

“Stevie wanted to play, we’d got a player in that position so he went to Preston to be happy.

“He is a good player so we have got to keep an eye on him. Preston have other good players in attack who are very dangerous so we must be careful with them. “

North End go into today’s game in the bottom three of the Championship – their companions there being MK Dons and Bristol City who came up with them from League One in May.

While that might be seen as a glowing example of the gulf which is developing between the Championship and the division below, Grayson thinks the picture will change as the campaign progresses.

“I would like to think that at the end of the season, it won’t be the case that the three clubs who came up are the bottom three,” said Grayson.

“When you speak to their coaches, both feel like us, that they have been right in games but have found mistakes are being punished more.

“I feel we are heading in the right direction but we do have to learn quickly.

“Aside from a few teams at the top, there isn’t much between a lot of clubs in this division.

“You look at some of the results – Fulham battered QPR 4-0 and then in their next game got done over 3-0 by Wolves. That is football in the Championship.”