Boss hails character of Wembley-bound PNE stars

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Proud Preston manager Simon Grayson has praised the character of his players for responding to missing out on automatic promotion by reaching the play-off final at Wembley.

Yesterday’s 3-0 victory over Chesterfield at Deepdale saw them complete a 4-0 aggregate win in the semi-final.

Chris Humphrey is carried off the field shoulder-high at the end

Chris Humphrey is carried off the field shoulder-high at the end

They will meet the winners of tonight’s game between Swindon and Sheffield United on Sunday, May 24, the Wiltshire side taking a 2-1 lead into the County Ground clash.

PNE are to announce ticket allocation details in due course, with sales set to start in the middle of the week.

This will be their first visit to the re-built Wembley, North End’s last trip to the old national stadium coming 21 years ago in 1994.

Grayson said: “This time last week, the players were hurting after what had happened at Colchester.

“People questioned certain things about them but they have come up trumps in the two semi-final legs.

“Yesterday was a great day for the club and now our focus is on two weeks’ time.

“We want to go to Wembley and win, over the next fortnight we will prepare properly to give ourselves the best chance.

“When we came back last Tuesday after Colchester, we made sure we were positive in everything we did.

“On Thursday night at their place we were disciplined and showed a lot of spirit and character.

“Yesterday, the players responded again and got the victory.”

Two top-drawer goals from Jermaine Beckford, either side of a Joe Garner penalty, gave Preston their win.

Beckford’s first was a volley on the turn after he had met a Garner flick-on.

His second three minutes from time came from just over the half-time line, the shot dipping over Spireites’ loan keeper Joe Murphy who had strayed slightly off his line.

Garner now has 27 goals for the season, Beckford on 15 in a Preston shirt – 12 of them since February 28.

Said Grayson: “We have players who can create things out of the ordinary.

“Beckford and Garner can do things which other players in this division cannot do, even a division higher.

“They are a potent threat against any team and have scored plenty of goals.

“The performance right through the team was good, to keep two clean sheets against a good Chesterfield side meant a lot of hard work.

“Last week was draining, a lot of soul-searching was done.

“The response has been excellent but we have won nothing yet – the hard work ahead of Wembley starts tomorrow morning.

“We don’t want to get there and not win.”

Fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle and police are investigating allegations that Chesterfield defender Ian Evatt was assaulted and spat on. Evatt gave a statement to police officers afterwards.