PNE’s strength in depth

Daniel Johnson will return to the Preston squad at Bolton
Daniel Johnson will return to the Preston squad at Bolton
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The Preston squad will have one final audition at Bolton’s Macron Stadium tomorrow before the curtain goes up on the new season.

It is the last chance for the players to catch the eye of Simon Grayson in match action before the countdown starts to the campaign’s opener at Reading a week tomorrow.

PNE manager Grayson anticipates having a number of selection issues – of the right kind – to contend with in the days ahead.

He was able to rest seven players for the midweek win over Morecambe and still field a 17-man squad.

Those seven – Joe Garner, Daniel Johnson, Jermaine Beckford, Paul Gallagher, Simon Makienok, Anders Lindegaard and Greg Cunningham – are expected to return to action at Bolton.

Tommy Spurr should also get more game-time under his belt, the defender having made his return from an ankle injury with 45 minutes of action at Morecambe.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “It just shows the strength of depth we have got in the squad.

“The performance level was very good at Morecambe even though we left a few of the lads out to either rest them or because one or two had niggles.

“That game was played at a high tempo, which was great for fitness.

“Bolton will be another good test for us, a step up, the players will be looking for that extra bit of sharpness before we started to fine-tune things next week.”

Bar the long-term knee injury suffered by Calum Woods, pre-season has been decent in Grayson’s eyes.

The 5-0 defeat to Fulham in Ireland was the one concern among the results – North End have won four and drawn with Stoke to date.

Said Grayson: “I’m not sure how many managers actually enjoy pre-season.

“It is a means to an end of getting everyone as fit as possible and getting as many players available for selection for the first day of the season.

“People can read into too many things – if you have a couple of bad results it is doom and gloom, if you have a couple of really good results, it lifts the expectancy levels.

“You have to remain pretty level-headed.

“When we lost to Fulham we were disappointed but not hugely disappointed because the game was just part of our training schedule.

“As the weeks have gone on we have been building and progressing with functional play and our units – you have seen us get better in the games as well as with the fitness stuff.

“At certain times it can get frustrating but what I will say about our players is that everything we have asked them to do, they have tried to do it 100%.

“Whether that is running, on the bikes, matchdays, training days, weight programmes, they have hit everything full on.

“Hopefully we will reap the benefits over the course of the season.”

Meanwhile, North End have announced that season ticket books are now available for collection from Deepdale.

Fans must have their payment reference number when collecting.