Preston North End midfielder John Welsh says the throwing-away of two points in last night’s draw with Gillingham must serve as a ‘kick up the backside’ for the remainder of their promotion push.
First-half goals from Jermaine Beckford and Callum Robinson had PNE cruising and on course for a vital victory – in fact, they should have been out of sight with the glut of chances they created.
The dressing room was quiet – the lads were devastated in there.
But the Gills hit back in the second half, with Jermain McGlashan halving the deficit before Leon Legge headed an equaliser 90 seconds into time added on.
Results elsewhere did not go North End’s way either, with third-place MK Dons winning 3-0 at Fleetwood while Swindon – in fourth – beat Rochdale 4-2.
League One leaders Bristol City clinched promotion in some style, thumping Bradford 6-0.
PNE’s lead in second place has been cut to three points, turning the pressure up for Friday night’s visit to Port Vale.
Welsh told the Evening Post: “The dressing room was quiet – the lads were devastated in there.
“A few words got said but we need to take that as a kick up the backside if you like.
“It is not over although obviously results haven’t gone our way.
“We have to re-group for a massive game on Friday night.
“They are certainly all massive games now.
“We played well in the first half and could have been 4-0 or 5-0 up.
“But unfortunately we didn’t take our chances.
“At 2-0 up you would expect us to go on and win it.
“But in the second half we simply didn’t do the things the way we had been doing all season.
“Gillingham got on top of us and got the goal which got them back in it.
“Then in stoppage-time they got the equaliser which is hard to take.
“We have to learn from it and go into Friday positive, that is a game we just have to win now.”
North End boss Simon Grayson admitted the contrast in performances between the first and second halves had been huge.
“It felt like a defeat after how we played in the first half,” said Grayson.
“The game could have been over – and a couple of other games could have been over too – by half-time given how many opportunities we had.
“We had passed the ball with a real tempo, everyone won their individual battles, we played short and played long, looking a real threat.
“Deservedly so we got the two goals and missed other chances to really kill the game off.
“Then in the second half we didn’t get going, we didn’t play with a tempo with or without the ball.
“We knew Gillingham would up their game and they certainly did.
“They won more of the individual battles and that contributed to us only drawing the game.
“At this stage of the season you might say that nerves kicked in but we have to be braver.
“We stopped doing the right things, didn’t stop them from playing.
“At times we took the easy option, clearances weren’t going where they should be going.
“In the first half we had been playing things short and quick in the middle and then longer down the sides.
“But in the second half we were sending things straight down the middle to their three big centre-halves and it was coming straight back at us.
“We have to have a lot more composure and guile about us.
“The first half we started extremely well, and we could have scored through Joe Garner in the first minute and the chances kept coming.
“We were a constant threat and it should have been game over.
“But at 2-0 the next goal in any game is a major part of it.”