PNE aim to put U’s to the sword

Craig Davies could return tomorrow
Craig Davies could return tomorrow
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Preston North End aim to set the record straight this weekend when they face Colchester United at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

North End produced one of their most dominant displays of the season against the U’s at Deepdale in November.

However, despite creating numerous chances on that occasion, Simon Grayson’s men were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal.

Luke Garbutt – who was on loan from Everton – drilled home a late equaliser for the visitors to cancel out Joe Garner’s earlier effort.

The match perhaps provides a snapshot of North End’s season so far.

Their lack of a cutting edge in the opposition box has meant they have drawn a few more games than they should have done.

PNE boss Grayson said: “I remember the first game against Colchester clearly. We absolutely battered them.

“We must have had about 15 or 20 chances and they were hanging on for their dear lives.

“But they stayed in the game, which is something you have to do sometimes when you’re under pressure, and they nicked one with 15 minutes to go. It’s probably been the story of a lot of our games this season.

“We have played very well – and I’m not being critical of the players in those positions – but we have missed some good opportunities.

“It’s not just the strikers, it’s possibly the midfielders as well when the ball comes out to them on the edge of the box –we don’t seem to score 20-yard shots.

“They go over the bar, whereas other teams seem to score them. There are fine margins between winning and drawing games.

“But somewhere over the next few weeks, we will look to turn those draws into wins.”

North End, who currently lie in fourth spot, have drawn 12 of their 31 games so far this season, which is double the number of leaders Brentford, while Wolves and Leyton Orient – in second and third respectively – have drawn seven.

This week, PNE were held 1-1 by Leyton Orient at Deepdale on Saturday and battled to a goalless draw at MK Dons on Tuesday.

“The draws have been costly in terms of getting into the top two,” Grayson said.

“At the start of the season we would have certainly taken where we are now after the number of games we have won, drawn and most notably lost.

“We haven’t lost many games and those 12 points we have gathered as draws could have been defeats and we would be halfway in the table – and that wouldn’t have been very good.”

With 15 games of the season still left to play, North End have not given up hope of achieving automatic promotion. They are seven points adrift of the top two.

“We are trying our best,” Grayson said. “We would have liked six points from the two games this week.

“I can’t fault the players – they have been a joy to work with. We are just lacking that cutting edge in the final third where it matters.”

Grayson is hopeful to have Craig Davies (tight hamstring) available tomorrow after he missed the trip to MK Dons.