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Leaks were not malicious, says PNE chairman

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Preston North End have vowed to draw a line under the ‘Leakgate’ events which saw their team selection fall into Sheffield Wednesday’s hands ahead of the defeat at Hillsborough.

Graham Westley revealed after the 2-0 loss that members of the Owls coaching staff had told him during the second half that they had known since Friday night what the starting XI would be.

And that had come to their attention via four North End players, much to the frustration and disappointment of PNE boss Westley who went public with the information in his various post-match media interviews.

Initially, there was a suggestion that it had been mischief-making on Wednesday’s behalf during exchanges between the dugouts.

But North End are satisfied that the team details did fall into the hands of Dave Jones’ side, although it doesn’t appear to have been done maliciously.

It’s understood that the four players had been talking to a third party on Friday, who then informed a member of the Wednesday coaching staff what the quartet had told him.

PNE chairman Peter Ridsdale told the Evening Post: “What Graham said after the game on Saturday was true.

“It was almost said in the heat of the moment after the disappointment of a defeat, and it was disappointing that our pre-match preparations were known to the opposition in advance.

“I’m aware categorically where the information came from, although I don’t think it was done maliciously.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but it’s time to draw a line under it and move on in order to focus on our game against MK Dons on Saturday.”

Westley was angry at the perceived leak, seeing it as part of the continued resistance he’s been encountering from some members of the squad since taking the job.

He’d made three changes to the team from the one beaten by Brentford last week, bringing Craig Morgan, Max Ehmer and Aaron Brown into the team.

The inclusion of centre-half Brown as a striker raised a few eyebrows, the 28-year-old playing up front for just over an hour before dislocating his shoulder and having to be replaced by Iain Hume.

Detailing what had happened on the touchline, Westley said: “I think it was a taunt from the Sheffield Wednesday bench, it was quite a deliberate moment and the information was very clear.

“When I heard it and took it on board, it didn’t surprise me on the one hand.

“If you are losing games like we are doing, there are problems in there.

“This is a type of example of what’s been going on which is worth bringing to people’s attention. It can hold an environment back and stop it progressing to the next level.

“When people are together, this sort of thing doesn’t happen. When people are working against their employer – against the club which pays their wages, it is never a good thing is it?

“If you are an intelligent manager you will always root it out in the end.

“You always know the people who can look you in the eye and those you can’t.

“In the past I’ve always had a dressing room where I can look round and see honest people.

“We aren’t there yet here at Preston, but we’ll get there.”

North End were solid enough in the first half, holding Wednesday comfortably at bay to go into the interval on level pegging.

But Gary Madine was given too much room on the edge of the box to fire the Owls ahead in the 49th minute, beating Thorsten Stuckmann at the near post.

Then moments after Brown’s substitution with the shoulder injury, Madine got on the end of a long throw from Michail Antonio to power home a header from six yards.

North End dropped to 16th place as a result, and will now look to the Easter fixtures against MK Dons and Stevenage for the points needed to keep them safe.

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