Simon says: Taking a break was good move

Simon Grayson leads out his team at Deepdale

Simon Grayson leads out his team at Deepdale

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Simon Grayson felt that the charity football game he organised in midweek was an ideal way to briefly take a break from the build-up to Preston’s crunch clash at Colchester on Sunday.

The PNE boss played the first half of the friendly in which his celebrity XI beat a supporters’ team 8-1.

When he took his place on the bench for the second period, Grayson inevitably got a reminder from the crowd about the importance of the trip to Essex.

Said Grayson: “It was nice to switch off a bit but half the time people were shouting, ‘I hope we can do it on Sunday’.

“Playing in the game was fantastic – it was something a bit different for me.

“Now we are back to work on Friday and Saturday to fine-tune our preparation ready for Colchester.”

Like any former player, Grayson loved pulling on the boots again.

The legs might be slower but he led by example by scoring his side’s opening goal – an absolute beauty it was too.

“We are slower covering the ground but we play the game more in our heads,” said Grayson.

“Mark Lawrenson is nearly 58 but he showed that he could still play.

“Paul McKenna and Jon Macken had played 120 minutes for Bamber Bridge the night before but still turned out.

“Kevin Kilbane ran the London Marathon in a great time last Sunday and probably in pain from that, turned up to play until well into the second half.”

The Colchester game being on Sunday has allowed PNE a bit of extra recovery and build-up time.

The squad had last Sunday and Monday off, before training on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thursday was a day off before reporting back on Friday. On Saturday after training, they will travel to Colchester.

Grayson said: “The lads are enjoying the build-up, having worked so hard to get to this point, I want them to enjoy it.

“There will be one or two nerves among the supporters, which is totally understandable.

“But the players are relaxed and also focused.

“We had two good days of training on Tuesday and Wednesday, with us also doing a couple of things to help relax their minds.

“Sunday is a game to look forward to – everything is in our hands and are not relying on what anyone else does.

“It will be a tough game because Colchester need to win it themselves.

“If we get the right result it will be a fantastic occasion and round off a successful season for us.”

Having a clear midweek to prepare is something of a rarity for North End.

They have had Monday or Tuesday games for the last three weeks, while much of the fixture list in February and March featured midweek matches.

“It has generally been a case of playing, recovering and then playing again,” said Grayson.

“I’m sure the players would like the game to come now but at least it gives us the time to recharge the batteries physically and mentally and get all the tactical work done.”

If by 2pm on Sunday, we are talking about PNE equalling a club record with regards to their away form, then they will be in the Championship.

So far this season, they have won 12 away matches in the league.

Taking that up to 13 would land the three points needed to be promoted.

The one time in their history that Preston have won 13 away league games was in the 1999-2000 Second Division title-winning campaign under David Moyes.