PNE boss faces play-offs selection headache

Bailey Wright
Bailey Wright
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Simon Grayson says he faces some tough selection issues for Preston North End’s play-off campaign.

Competition for places is strong throughout the squad, with Lilywhites boss Grayson aware that some noses will be put out of joint when it comes to picking a team in the coming weeks.

Preston end the regular season against Crewe at Gresty Road tomorrow (3pm).

Roaring PNE on as they look for the victory which would secure them third place will be a sell-out 2,266 away following.

With the play-off order still to be finalised and hosts Crewe battling to avoid relegation, there will be no easing off by North End.

Those picked to play can use it as the perfect audition ahead of the play-offs.

Grayson said: “We cannot allow our foot to come off the gas.

“Every player has been told in the strongest of terms that if they take their foot off the gas then they won’t be in the side for the semi-finals and, beyond that, hopefully the final.

“They are all desperate to be involved in the games over the next few weeks.

“This is an exciting period and any player worth their salt wants to play in the big games.

“We have felt that over the last six weeks or so we have prepared well for this stage of the season.

“We have given them all game time and none of them have let us down.

“They will know ultimately that the team I pick tomorrow and for the two semi-finals at the very least will be a team set out to benefit the club.

“I know there will be some disappointed players but these are decisions which managers get paid to make and players have to respect that.

“It is not easy because there will be good players who have performed very well this season who could end up not being in the 18 for some of the biggest games of the season.”

Scott Wiseman is likely to be involved tomorrow, having returned to training this week after a knee injury.

It might be that Tom Clarke is given a bit more time to rest a slight calf strain.

Clarke’s likely absence would see Bailey Wright and Jack King paired again at the heart of the defence.

A return for Wiseman is a boost, the 28-year-old having been solid on the right-hand side of Preston’s defence since his winter switch from Barnsley.

“Scott is a good player and we can utilise him in different positions,” said Grayson.

“When we’ve played three centre-backs we have put him in there, and he can play right wing-back or at right-back.

“With so many options it gives me a selection problem but I’d rather have that than be without five or six players through injury.”

Crewe will be chasing a win to make themselves safe –something which could benefit the PNE players, according to Grayson. He said: “Crewe’s fans will be out in force and we have sold our allocation.

“I think it is good for the players to have that edge to the game.

“They will have to dig in, stick together but at the same time express themselves in a high-tension game.”