Decision day for PNE boss

Jermaine Beckford and Joe Garner will be certain starters
Jermaine Beckford and Joe Garner will be certain starters
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Simon Grayson says he has a couple of big decisions to make on the selection front for Preston North End’s play-off final clash with Swindon at Wembley.

All of the Lilywhites squad are fit for Sunday – a decent achievement after 62 games this season – giving PNE boss Grayson food for thought.

“It is testament to how hard the players have worked this season that they are all fit,” Grayson told the Evening Post.

“The medical staff, led by our physio Matt Jackson and fitness coach Tom Little, have worked hard with them.

“Having everyone available makes my decision even harder for the weekend.

“We have some tough calls to make in terms of who is going to be playing and what shape we play.

“There are obviously going to be some disappointed players who have contributed a lot to the season so far – but that is football.

“I will pick a team for Sunday in order to go out and try and win it, rather than think of individuals.

“It is about what is best for the club on the day and there will be some difficult decisions.

“When you look at where we have been for the last two or three months, the nucleus of the squad will be more or less the same.

“Large parts will remain the same. I think one thing you can guarantee is that Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford will be up front.

“Sam Johnstone will be in goal and a few of the others you can have a guess at.

“But there are still certain areas up for consideration.”

Grayson will have to decide if he can find room for Neil Kilkenny in the midfield after an impressive show from him in the semi-final second leg against Chesterfield.

Calum Woods was preferred ahead of Scott Laird for that game, while Chris Humphrey found himself on the bench after starting in the first leg.

PNE have used Deepdale as their training base over the last few days. The pitch has been marked out using the same dimensions as Wembley.

That has meant lengthening the playing surface by a couple of yards but also narrowing it.

After a practice session this morning, the Preston squad will set off to London by train.

Tomorrow, they will be put through their paces at Brentford’s training ground.

Grayson feels that North End have used their time well since booking their place in the Wembley final.

“We have kept them ticking over, worked on our team shape, while we have taken the opportunity to recharge their batteries,” said Grayson.

“Hopefully we have got the right balance and now the final cannot come quickly enough.

“The players are excited, so are the supporters.

“There are probably a few nerves and a bit of apprehension but that is probably more among the fans.

“What we have done in our preparation is to try and make sure we have given the players enough information for the day.

“The pitch is an example of that – we have adapted it to what is needed.

“Deepdale is actually wider than Wembley but not as long so we have changed it.

“That is a bit of fine detail which might work for us.

“From early in the build-up, our focus has been on the game rather than getting carried away with things which happen away from the pitch.

“On Sunday, the players need to carry out the instructions which we have given them. They need to play the game rather than the occasion.

“We cannot get away from the fact that the game is at Wembley – we are human beings and not robots, who you can programme to take away feelings. But there has to be a total focus on the game once it starts.”

PNE reporter Dave Seddon will be answering your questions live online at from 11am to 11.30am today. Tweet your question, using the hashtag #asksedds 
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