Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column

Preston striker Joe Garner has a shot in the derby clash with Bolton
Preston striker Joe Garner has a shot in the derby clash with Bolton
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Watching Preston North End’s clash with Bolton, you could see that their play going forward was a bit too predictable.

If you play the wing-back system, you want the wide lads getting down the sides and putting in crosses which are going to make defenders work.

What I saw was too many straight balls put into the box, crosses coming from 10 yards into the Bolton half. As a defender, the odds are that you will win those in the air nine times out of 10.

Bolton defender David Wheater probably needed an Anadin after the game due to the amount of times he headed the ball clear.

It could have been a different story had North End’s wing-backs got further up the pitch and crossed from dangerous areas.

Get down the side of the box and towards to the byline, and it becomes difficult for defenders to defend crosses. By then, you can be facing your own goal and a sliced clearance can end up in the net.

If there was going to be a goal scored in Saturday’s game, it was likely to have come from a set-piece.

Bolton were very much in the mould of North End, in that they looked strong at the back but lacked belief in attack.

In that situation you can become fearful of conceding a goal because you look around your team and wonder where an equaliser is going to come from.

Defensively, North End are fine. Four clean sheets in a row is good at any level. Simon Grayson builds his sides from the back and that part of the team is working well.

He now just needs to open things up a bit more, ask his players to take a gamble in some situations.

It might be the wide players getting to the line or a runner from midfield pushing up and stretching the opposition.

In terms of a partnership up front, there has been a lot of chopping and changing.

But I don’t blame Simon for that because he is trying to find the right combination.

When strikers don’t score, you have to look at different options until you settle on a successful pair.

In terms of the wing-backs, it might be there is a change of formation for the Nottingham Forest game on Tuesday night.

Playing with wing-backs can be very effective, it is just how they are used.

When I was a young player at Darlington, we played 3-5-2 under Brian Little.

That was with two wingers at wing-back and hence was very attacking.

At West Bromwich, we played it as a 5-3-2 with five defenders.

Away from home it is a good system but when the onus is more on you at home, maybe it can be seen as a defensive system.

If North End can maintain the clean sheets and have a bit more joy up front, then they should be fine. But they need to find some goals from somewhere.

They did it at Charlton a couple of weeks ago, so they do have it in them.

Meanwhile, I found the BBC documentary on the Class of ’92 running Salford City, a really good watch.

Salford are in the same division as Darlington, where I coach, and the tests which Gary Neville and Co faced were very similar to what we have.

They saw the manager miss a pre-season game because he was on holiday, with players late for training because they had been at work.

At Darlington, we have lads coming off night shifts and playing – that is the reality of life in non-league.