Wembley prize can spur us on says PNE boss

Simon Grayson has targeted a Wembley visit for PNE

Simon Grayson has targeted a Wembley visit for PNE

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Simon Grayson has urged Preston to turn the negativity surrounding the play-offs into the positive of getting to Wembley.

The Lilywhites embark on their 10th play-off campaign when they face Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium tonight.

It is only four days since their automatic promotion dream ended at Colchester and that is still an open wound for many PNE supporters.

Grayson says now is the time to look ahead rather than back, the focus being on trying to get the better of the Spireites over two legs and reaching the May 24 play-off final.

“Sunday at Colchester should have been a fantastic occasion but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way,” said Deepdale boss Grayson.

“We now have the two semi-final games – there is the massive incentive to win those and go on to get promoted at one of the best grounds in Europe, if not the world.

“All the players and staff are looking forward to these games – we will embrace the play-offs.

“Let us hope that this is our year and we can get promoted.”

Although accepting that Preston’s play-off record does not make for pleasant reading, Grayson takes the view that his side starts with a clean slate.

He argues that records, good or bad, are there to be broken.

In order for North End to bring a lead back to Deepdale for Sunday’s second leg, they must win an away tie in the play-offs for the first time.

Said Grayson: “It might be that people are ruling us out because of what has happened in the past.

“What we will do is go there and give it a right go – records are there to be broken.

“My glass is always half full, the players are certainly determined to do something about it.

“Why can’t we get to Wembley and get promoted?

“We have two tough games first of all against Chesterfield and there is no guarantee in any football match.

“But we have all got to believe that we can do it.

“We got so close to automatic promotion and proved all season that we were one of the best teams in this division.

“There is no magic wand to winning football matches, whether in the play-offs or league competition.

“In any game we have to be very organised, disciplined and be ruthless in both boxes.”

Grayson hopes to have Callum Robinson available for selection, North End waiting for the nod from his parent club Aston Villa to play him in the semi-finals.

Should he be involved, it looks like being a swansong as far as his time at Deepdale is concerned, with Villa boss Tim Sherwood ruling out sending him on loan next season.

PNE’s visit to Chesterfield in the league on February 10 saw them return with a 2-0 win, while last September’s home clash ended 3-3 after Preston had led 3-0.

“You know what you are going to get with Chesterfield,” said Grayson.

“They play with a lot of energy and tempo, pass the ball quickly and play without fear – full credit to them that they have got into the play-offs.

“While we are aware of what they can do, our focus is on playing to our strengths.”