PNE are kings of the road

John Welsh
John Welsh
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Travel specialists Preston North End will be looking to give their promotion push a boost when they hit the road for back-to-back away games.

North End make the short trip to Boundary Park to face Oldham tomorrow (3pm) before turning their 
attention to Stevenage on Tuesday night.

They boast the joint best away record in League One, and have taken six more points on their travels than they have at Deepdale.

Simon Grayson hopes the strong run can be maintained over the coming days as the Lilywhites seek to close the gap – or at the very least stay in touch with the automatic promotion places.

PNE boss Grayson said: “Away from home we look to be tight, organised, hard to beat, and to take chances when they come along.

“That is how we have set up all season – we go out wanting to dominate the opposition and win the games.

“There have been a lot of games this season away from home when we have dominated from start to 
finish and got some really good results.

“Hopefully it can be the same again this weekend.”

Grayson acknowledges that North End are entering a critical stage of the season when every result counts.

They have a six-point gap to make up on top two Wolves and Leyton Orient, and are three shy of Brentford in third place.

Between them and the clubs just outside the play-off places there is a 17-point cushion, so the focus is very much upwards.

Said Grayson: “We are getting results when results matter and that must continue.

“We are now in March when you need results if you are going to get to where you want to be.

“We could have had a couple more victories, rather than draws but I’m pleased with where we are going and the momentum which is building.

“Credit to the players for getting us to where we are, and they have to continue working hard to try and get higher.

“The focus is on the games ahead, not on what has happened.

“Over the course of the season we have maybe scraped some victories when we have not deserved to but also we have dropped points when we should have won.

“That is football and you would drive yourself crazy by reflecting on each game and wondering what might have been.

“Picking up points and dropping them is part and parcel of football.

“We are in a really good position and have come a long way in a year.

“Hopefully we can finish off what we have started.”

North End will have another big following behind them tomorrow, with ticket sales having gone beyond 2,200 by close of business last night.

The club are offering coach travel for just £5. On the selection front, skipper John Welsh could come back into contention.

He has missed the last three games with bone bruising in his knee.

In Welsh’s absence, Keith Keane has stepped into his midfield role and worn the captain’s armband.

Said Grayson: “We are hoping that John can resume training and that would give us a nice complement of players for the weekend, for Stevenage on Tuesday and then Sheffield United next week.

“I have always said that if we have to change the team, whoever comes in doesn’t make us weaker.

“When we have had to dig in over the last few games, Keith Keane has led us well.

“He is the first to acknowledge that he has some weaknesses to his 

But all the midfielder have some good qualities and other things which they need to work on.”

In order to be fully equipped for the run-in over the next two months, Grayson has confirmed that none of the players on the fringes of the 
first-team squad will be leaving on loan.

“We have had enquiries about two or three players going on loan but we won’t be letting them out,” said Grayson.

“They are part of a really tight-knit squad here.

“Never mind me throwing them back into the 18-man squad on a matchday, if I put them back into the starting XI they wouldn’t let us down because they have kept themselves nice and bright on the training pitch.

“Having worked really hard to get to where we are, why leave ourselves short if we let players out on loan and then get a couple of injuries?”

Meanwhile, Grayson has missed out on the League One manager of the month award.

That honour went to Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough, who has overseen the Blades’ impressive charge up the table.