PNE boss in case for the defence

Centre-half Paul Huntington tangles with Bradford striker Jon Stead
Centre-half Paul Huntington tangles with Bradford striker Jon Stead
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Simon Grayson will seek more defensive solidity from his Preston North End side in a bid to halt their stuttering league run.

The Lilywhites have sprung a few leaks in the back line in recent weeks, ones which must be plugged ahead of the visit to leaders Bristol City this weekend.

PNE visit Ashton Gate on the back of three successive League One defeats, although there was the FA Cup victory at Havant and Waterlooville in amongst that run.

Following back-to-back clean sheets against Port Vale and Gillingham, North End have shipped eight goals in the last six matches.

Two were conceded in the first few minutes of the derby clash with Fleetwood but PNE fought back to win 3-2.

They kept Leyton Orient at bay in a 2-0 away victory but were then beaten 3-0 by Rochdale at Spotland.

One goal was enough to see them lose against Swindon before they bounced back with the victory at Havant.

Saturday’s 2-1 loss against Bradford at Deepdale saw them concede a soft goal from a corner in the first half.

Then within 50 seconds of equalising late in the game, they allowed the Bantams back in for their winner – Mark Yeates not closed down as he curled in a fine finish.

Preston went with four at the back in the first half, with Tom Clarke switched to 
right-back to cover the absence of Scott Wiseman.

Jack King and Paul Huntington were in the middle, with David Buchanan at left-back.

PNE boss Grayson switched to a 3-5-2 for the second half, Clarke going into the middle of the back three.

The wing-back roles were filled by Chris Humphrey and Buchanan, with Scott Laird later introduced for Buchanan on the left.

Grayson did not think that Wiseman being away on international duty with Gibraltar should have left PNE so vulnerable defensively.

But it did unbalance them, in that it took skipper Clarke out of the middle.

Said Grayson: “We missed Scott in the sense that he gives you that attacking element of his game at home.

“Tom Clarke has played right-back enough times, Jack King and Paul Huntingon have played at centre-half long enough.

“But they were dominated by Jon Stead, Billy Clarke and their two wide men right from the start.

“We had prepared as well as we could have done last week, worked a lot on what Bradford would be all about.

“The team we put out we thought was good enough and powerful enough to cause them problems.

“However, we did not earn a base to play off, we didn’t win enough first or second balls and didn’t anticipate things.

“Bradford’s front two caused our back four problems with their aggression and running, we have to be better.”

Grayson does have the rare luxury of a clear midweek to get the team organised for the Bristol City trip.

PNE have had four midweek away games in a row and they have another one next week at Oldham in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

“There is no reason why we can’t go to Bristol City and get a result,” said Grayson.

“We have got a clear week for the first time in a while to get some work done.”