Late choice is the right one for PNE

Calum Woods vies for possession with Blackburn Rovers' Tommy SpurrCalum Woods vies for possession with Blackburn Rovers' Tommy Spurr
Calum Woods vies for possession with Blackburn Rovers' Tommy Spurr
Simon Grayson admitted that his team selection for Preston North End's derby victory over Blackburn had only been finalised in the hours before kick-off.

The Lilywhites manager left it late to choose his strike force, eventually opting for Jordan Hugill alongside Joe Garner.

That proved an inspired choice with both front men finding the net in the 2-1 win at Ewood Park to the delight of 7,000 travelling fans.

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Garner pulled North End level from the penalty spot, that equalising Blackburn’s early opener.

Then Hugill took centre stage, volleying home Paul Gallagher’s pinpoint cross to give the visitors the lead.

Grayson said: “I only made my mind up in the morning who would play up top with Garns.

“But not even Garns is guaranteed to be playing each week because I now have the luxury of options up there.

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“I looked at my bench at Blackburn and for the first time in a while, had plenty of options to affect the game at both ends of the pitch.

“Eoin Doyle was unlucky not to play, Callum Robinson didn’t deserve to be left out.

“From watching games here, we knew the pitch would not be the best to be fair.

“We were not going to get time to play, that is why we went for Ben Pearson and Alan Browne in midfield to start with , knowing the game might open up later for Daniel Johnson.

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“There was always the chance we would have to go a bit more direct up to the front two and play off them.

“We picked a particular team for the occasion and it will probably be different on Tuesday night when we play Fulham.”

Grayson was full of praise for North End’s travelling fans who filled the Darwen End and noisily backed their team to a first victory at Ewood Park since March 1979.

“I cannot think of too many occasions as a manager when I have been involved in a game where there have been 7,000 away supporters,” he said.

“Maybe a couple of times at Leeds but that is all.

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“Before the game I said to the players that there were eight games to go, let’s try and win as many as possible.

“I wanted us to try and send the fans home in as positive a manner as possible.

“We did that. Before the game I was told we had not won at Ewood Park for a long time, so it was nice to get the three points.

“Now we have seven big games left against teams at the top and bottom, it is going to be a big few weeks.”

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North End had to chase the game for a section of the first half after Rovers too the lead in the 13th minute.

Elliott Ward, who had a loan spell with PNE in 2010, fired home after a header from Hope Akpan had come back off the bar.

The game swung Preston’s way when Rovers skipper Shane Duffy handled a shot from Hugill on the line and was sent-off.

Garner netted from the spot and as half-time neared, Hugill volleyed the winner.

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Said Grayson: “We were disappointed to have given the first goal away.

“We got back into it with the penalty, that was the right decision by the referee as it was handball on the line.

“For the second goal, it was a great finish by Jordan from a great ball by Gally.

“In the second half, they went to 3-4-2.

“With us having the extra body, Adam Reach got a lot of room down the left.”