PNE aim for right balance

Daniel Johnson is shortlisted for a gong at the NW Football Awards tonight
Daniel Johnson is shortlisted for a gong at the NW Football Awards tonight
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Simon Grayson believes the run of clean sheets put together by Preston North End and their shortage of goals at the other end is not down to them ‘parking the bus’.

The Lilywhites go into this weekend’s derby with Blackburn on the back of six successive clean sheets.

In that run have been four goalless draws, two at Deepdale and two on the road.

That has raised the question of whether staying tight in the defence has stifled North End’s attacking play.

PNE boss Grayson told the Evening Post: “We are trying to get the right balance.

“People might look at the results and think we are playing with five out-and-out defenders and three grafters in midfield.

“But we are not, when you consider we have an attacking full-back in Marnick Vermijl playing on the right and a winger in Adam Reach at left wing-back.

“In midfield we have Daniel Johnson, Alan Browne and Paul Gallagher – they are all footballers rather than grafters.

“We are not parking the bus in any game, it is just that collectively the lads are working hard for each other to make sure we don’t concede.

“At the top end of the pitch we are working to be more creative.

“We have players up there who are capable of that but have not quite been firing.

“Things are taking time to develop up there but I’m confident we will get it right.”

Grayson holds the view that the goals will come and says a touch of patience is necessary as they wait for things to click. “The players have proved that they are goalscorers,” said Grayson.

“Also, having a partnership and understanding can play a big part.

“Last season, Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford probably didn’t hit it off right away in terms of a partnership.

“When they did, it went from strength to strength.

“We have got options to choose from, not just in terms of the starting line-up but people coming off the bench.

“I have no worries that we will get goals and turn some of these draws into wins.”

Midfielder Johnson will be hoping to be recognised as the region’s top young talent at tonight’s North West Football Awards being held at Lancashire Cricket Club.

Johnson is shortlisted in the rising star category, with his competition being Angelino (Manchester City), Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United), Zach Clough (Bolton), Josh Windass (Accrington) and Ben Heneghan (Chester).

Paul Huntington is PNE’s representative for the League One player of the year gong, the award being based on last season’s performances.

Beckford’s 45-yard shot in the play-off semi-final against Chesterfield has been put forward by North End for the goal of the year award.

That award will be voted for on the night, voting for the other awards having closed last month.