Training paid off for PNE defence

Scott Laird (above) stepped in when Scott Wiseman was injured
Scott Laird (above) stepped in when Scott Wiseman was injured
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Simon Grayson believes that a collective approach in training contributed to Preston North End’s hastily-assembled defence keeping a clean sheet in the win at Gillingham.

The PNE manager had to shuffle the pack in terms of his back line for the Priestfield Stadium clash.

Heading to Kent, Grayson already knew that he would be without skipper Tom Clarke because of illness.

That meant a centre-half pairing of Paul Huntington and Jack King, with the plan to have Scott Wiseman and David Buchanan operating in the full-back positions.

When Wiseman felt a twinge in his knee during the warm-up, Grayson had to promote Scott Laird from the bench and play him in an unfamiliar right-back role.

Laird has not had too many starts this season and you had to go back to Christmas to trace Huntington’s last start in a league game.

It was a completely-changed defence to the one which started the season – Calum Woods, Clarke, Bailey Wright and Ben Davies.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “We work very hard on the training ground, not just with the back four who have played the previous game or that you expect to start the next one with.

“The training involves all the lads who have potential to come into the team so that they know how we like to do things.

“As a defence at Gillingham they headed the ball when it needed heading, and when they needed to get tight on the front foot they did that.

“They did the basics right and it was really pleasing to keep a clean sheet.

“We were down to the bare bones in terms of numbers but the squad has plenty of depth and experience to cope. Scott Wiseman got a bang on the knee on Saturday when we played Port Vale.

“He did not train on Monday and was a doubt for the Gillingham game but he said he felt okay.

“When he went out to do the warm-up he felt something again and had to drop out.

“The injury came from a kick rather than anything else and hopefully Scott will be all right for the weekend.

“Tom Clarke had a virus which stopped him from travelling so we will have to see how he is.”

The left-footed Laird coped well at right-back. He was asked to play there as a case of needs-must more than anything.

Said Grayson: “I had not really seen Lairdy play at 
right-back before but we didn’t have too much choice other than to do that.

“John Welsh was an option to play there but Lairdy is a natural defender and he said he felt comfortable there.

“I thought that he did his job really well and every credit to him stepping in at the last moment.

“As the season has gone on I have emphasised to the players that all of them would have a part to play and that has certainly been the case.

“Our squad gives me so many options. For example, I was able to rest Kyel Reid to start with at Gillingham and bring in Callum Robinson.

“I thought Callum was very lively, out wide in the first half and then off the striker in the second half.

“We need the squad because we have a few injuries at the moment.”