PNE boss hails centre pair

Neil Kilkenny
Neil Kilkenny
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Midfield pair John Welsh and Neil Kilkenny have been praised by Preston North End boss Simon Grayson for their contribution to the Lilywhites’ latest victory over Leyton Orient.

The Brisbane Road clash was the first time in which the duo had started a league game together this season, Welsh having been out of the picture due to injury and the good form of others.

But a 45-minute substitute appearance in last Saturday’s win over Fleetwood saw Welsh get the nod to start in place of Alan Browne on Tuesday night, him and Kilkenny linking-up to good effect as PNE made it eight wins in a row.

Kilkenny’s deep role in which he gets the ball off the back four to becoming the starting point of many attacks, has been a key element in the winning run, one which has lifted PNE into second place in League One.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “You know what you get with Kila and that is why I brought him to the club about this time last year.

“He has his faults like everyone else but what he does is keeps us ticking over and finds the players within the system who we want to get on the ball.

“Those players can then get into the pockets and areas of the pitch where they can hurt the opposition.

“Kila is so good at finding those players with a pass, he likes to get on the ball and get us moving.

“I think John Welsh deserves a lot of credit too for the way he came into the side at Orient.

“He affected the game in a positive way as a substitute against Fleetwood and did so from the start the other night.

“John kept himself right when he was out of the team and has been rewarded for that with a couple of good performances.

“It doesn’t do any harm to freshen things up during what is a demanding run of games with a lot of travelling.

“Sometimes you have to take the younger lads out and give them a rest like we did with Alan Browne on Tuesday and Josh Brownhill before that.

“They will feel the benefit of that and their chance will come again.

“It is good to have the depth of the squad we have and the last few games have seen players come into the side and doing really well.”

North End’s next game is Saturday’s visit to Spotland to take on Rochdale, a game which will attract a big away following.

The fitness of Paul Gallagher will need to be assessed over the next couple of days, with him having come off with a slight groin strain early in the second half at Orient.

Gallagher had made a little bit of history in that game, his 70th appearance for North End being the highest number for a player on loan at PNE – goalkeeper Declan Rudd held the record until Tuesday.

Grayson said: “We will see where we are with that one.

“Gally just felt his groin in the first half and we wanted to ensure that we did not make it any worse so we made the change early in the second half.

“We had players on the bench who could come on and help us, Kevin Davies replaced him and did well.

“If Gally is not available for Rochdale at the weekend than we have options.

“It was good to get a couple of players back at Orient and see the injury list shorten a little.

“Scott Wiseman was able to start and Tom Clarke was on the bench although we didn’t think he was fully recovered from the virus he’d had to start the game.

“Calum Woods is now back in training, so that will be someone else available to us soon.”