Lee Holmes believes the shackles have been taken off the Preston squad over the past week.
The left-winger indicated that there has been a much more relaxed atmosphere around the club since the departure of previous boss Graham Westley last week.
John Dreyer, in his short stint as caretaker boss, managed to coax a much-improved performance and result out of the players against Bournemouth on Saturday.
And Holmes revealed that Dreyer did so by making the players feel more comfortable and confident.
It is a mantra, according to Holmes, which Simon Grayson has continued since his appointment as PNE’s new manager on Monday.
Asked if the squad had been playing with an element of fear under the previous regime, Holmes said: “I think on the pitch, it looked like that.
“Results were showing that we were not doing very well.
“Something was not right, something didn’t click.
“Over the last week, everybody has been able to take the shackles off a little bit and just relax, doing what they do best – and that’s playing football.
“John Dreyer did it on Saturday where the lads were feeling really comfortable and confident on the pitch.
“I think it showed in our performance.
“To play Bournemouth off the park was a big achievement.
“It was something that we knew we were capable of doing – it was just getting it out of us.
“What changed last week against Bournmemouth?
“Obviously, the big one was the previous manager leaving.
“I don’t know whether that changed things mentally for the players.
“I know what John did in the couple of days he had with us was to get the lads going.
“He knew what made us tick and how to get the best out of us and that was proven on Saturday.
“To put a performance like that in after two days of training while John was effectively in charge was credit to him and the boys.
“The new manager has come in and said some encouraging things to us. The lads have really enjoyed the training over the last couple of days.
“I think the one thing is the lads have been relaxed and just got on with what they do best.”
Holmes concedes that a change in manager is always an apprehensive time for a player.
Like the majority of the current squad, the former Southampton man was brought to the club by Westley.
And now he must prove to Grayson that he is worthy of a place in the team.
Holmes, though, is relishing the prospect of impressing his new manager.
“I think it can be an apprehensive time for a player when someone new comes in,” Holmes said.
“But I don’t know how other people are feeling. My sole aim is to be the player that I came here to be.
“I know what I’m good at and I need to try to produce that on a day-to-day basis.
“I need to show the manager what I can do, and that goes for all the lads.
“We are all in the same boat. The rest of the lads want to show what they’re good at and what they bring to the table.”
Having played an integral role in defeating last weekend’s table-toppers Bournemouth, Holmes now has his eyes firmly fixed on another scalp tomorrow when they travel to face League One’s current leaders Swindon Town at the County Ground.
Town have had their problems this week after the resignation of manager Paolo Di Canio, and Holmes is confident he and his team-mates have enough quality about them to knock the Robins off their lofty perch.
He said: “I don’t see any reason why we can’t go there and pick up all three points.
“It’s a great platform for us to move on after great performance last weekend.
“It’s a great chance for us to kick on and we will be going into the game without any other thought than we can go there and upset them.”
A 1,000-plus PNE following is expected to make the journey south tomorrow and Holmes admitted he detected a major change in the fans’ attitude last weekend at Deepdale.
“It was a great experience for us last Saturday. It was interesting to see how much the crowd had changed really.
“I think it showed with the way the people off the pitch helped the people on the pitch.
“Our level picked up a little bit. On the road all this season we have been really well supported and the fans who are travelling to the game tomorrow show how big this club really is.
“Results haven’t been great, but the fans have still turned out to cheers us on.”
Eighteen points separate North End and Tranmere, who occupy the final play-off position and Holmes concedes that a top-six position is a long shot. “I think the target this season is get up the league and slowly but surely make progress,” he added.