Competition for places is hotting up among the Preston North End squad.
PNE’s starting XI for the opening four games of the Championship season has had a familiar look to it.
Nine players have begun every game in the league so far, but many of them have been rested for the club’s two Capital One Cup ties.
On Tuesday night, North End progressed in the competition thanks to a splendid 1-0 win over Premier League Watford at Deepdale.
Their reward for a fine victory was a third-round home draw against more top-flight opposition in the shape of newly-promoted Bournemouth.
Josh Brownhill, Alan Browne and Kyel Reid – who have yet to start in a league game this campaign – impressed against the Hornets.
And manager Simon Grayson admits their performances have given him much food for thought ahead of the trip to Hull on Saturday.
“When we do have other games and competitions and other people come into the team, we always say make it difficult for me to leave them out,” Grayson said.
“I think Alan and Josh have done well on Tuesday night and Reidy had bursts where he did really well.
“That is what I want. I want players telling me that they ready and available to be picked.”
Summer signing Marnick Vermijl, who has started just one game – the 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough on the opening weekend of the season, capped a fine display on Tuesday night by scoring the winning goal.
Signed as a full-back, Grayson sprang a surprise by using Vermijl on the right-hand side of a front three which included Reid on the left and Joe Garner in the centre. The 23-year-old’s adaptability was another example of the versatility the squad boasts when being asked by their manager to utilise different formations.
“It is something we have spent a lot of time on the training pitch doing,” Grayson said.
“Whenever we have changed the system game by game or during a game, the players know what they are doing and what jobs they need to carry out on the pitch.
“When we do get opportunities to change the system, they make life easier because they are all willing workers.
“Maybe one or two people don’t know about Marnick’s versatility. But we know he can do a job – he’s played as wing-back before for us.
“Really playing as a wing-back is no different to playing on that right-hand side.
“Chris Humphrey played there on Saturday and did well for us.
“It’s just nice to have the players who can give us those options.”
Grayson also reserved a special mention for young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after he pulled off a terrific save in the second half to keep North End’s lead intact against the Hornets.
The 21-year-old – who was named by Gareth Southgate in the England Under-21s squad before the match – produced a finger-tip save to deny Ben Wilson.
“When he’s had to do it, Jordan’s produced performances for us,” said Grayson “He kept us in it with that great save against Watford – it just shows that his concentration levels are high that he’s been able to make a really good save.”