PNE boss makes case for defence

Greg Cunningham impressed for PNE in the draw against Wolves
Greg Cunningham impressed for PNE in the draw against Wolves
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Simon Grayson felt that Preston North End’s defensive display in the weekend draw against Wolves was a step in the right direction.

Although disappointed to have conceded a 91st-minute equaliser when down to nine men, Grayson was encouraged by the more solid look his side had at the back.

Tom Clarke earned praise from the PNE boss, as he looked far more at home at the heart of a back four than on the right hand side of a three.

Greg Cunningham caught the eye too with an energetic afternoon’s work down the left, both defensively and going forward.

Said Grayson: “I thought Clarke was outstanding – he headed so many balls out of the box.

Click here for PNE v Wolves report

“There was a real steel about us, we were desperate to keep that ball out of the net.

“Greg Cunningham, Bailey Wright until his sending off and Calum Woods, did ever so well.

“They did not get what they deserved by us conceding that late equaliser.

“Cunningham did very well. Even when we were down to nine men he was getting down that left channel, he worked extremely hard.”

A clean sheet in the league has eluded North End since mid August.

They started the campaign solidly, with three successive Championship shut-outs against Middlesbrough, MK Dons and Rotherham.

But they have been unable to keep it clean since, bar the 1-0 Capital One Cup win over Watford.

Grayson is encouraged that they held Wolves at bay with 10 men from the 20th minute and then for a further period with nine, after Bailey Wright joined Joe Garner in taking an early bath.

“In defensive terms, it was one of our best performances this season,” said Grayson.

“Against MK Dons last month we played well and got three points.

“Saturday was all about us showing a different side to our game and the lads worked extremely hard.

“It was the right reaction after I had not been overly impressed with what happened at Brentford.

“A week after that, we showed the real characteristics which we have got at this club.

“I thought we did that against Bournemouth last Tuesday in the cup and now against Wolves.

“Our supporters were fantastic on Saturday, driving the players on with some terrific noise.”

The weekend’s red cards means Grayson will have to make changes at both ends of the pitch for the visit to Sheffield Wednesday.

In terms of filling the vacancy created by Wright’s one-game suspension, the ready-made replacement is Paul Huntington.

That is providing he has recovered from the hamstring strain he suffered in training last week which has sidelined him for the last two games.

Up front, there are plenty of choices to fill Joe Garner’s shoes for the next three games.

Grayson said: “Hopefully Hunts will be all right, we will see where we are with that.

“Paul Gallagher could potentially be ready for this weekend too, so it would be nice to have a couple more options available in the squad.”