PNE boss’s selection headache

Jack King
Jack King
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Graham Westley says a strong Preston North End performance in the midweek friendly at Stoke has given him plenty of selection options for the trip to Portsmouth tomorrow.

The PNE manager used the behind-closed-doors contest to get ‘game time’ into the players who had not been regular starters recently.

He was impressed with what he saw in the 1-0 win, and some who played against the Potters will come into contention at Fratton Park.

Westley said: “We played against a very strong Stoke outfit.

“Michael Owen, Wilson Palacios, Matthew Upson, Steve Sorensen and Ryan Shotton were all in their side.

“It wasn’t just the win which I was happy with but it was a really strong performance.

“Had it not been behind closed doors, people would have seen a team which they believed in again.

“I’ve got the options available to shuffle the pack if I choose to.

“There could be quite a few changes tomorrow because we need to find our level again after the two league defeats we’ve suffered.

“A big part of what I’ve been looking at this week is replacing what Scott Laird and Keith Keane would give us.

“Maybe I need a bit more leadership of the side, more tackling, a bit more bite.

“If that means I have to bring one or two into the side to give me that, then I will.”

Jack King is likely to be one of those who played at the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday to be pushing for a recall tomorrow.

His last start came against Leyton Orient three weeks ago. King was a second-half substitute the following game against Gillingham, before being left on the bench for last week’s defeat to Crewe.

David Buchanan will be in contention for the left-back slot, having been overlooked for the last two games.

Westley hopes that Stuart Beavon is fit enough to travel after missing the Crewe game through illness.

Said Westley: “Stuart is feeling much better than he was, although he was only back at the club yesterday.

“His prospects of starting against Portsmouth are slight.

“You can’t have a week out of action without it having a physical bearing.

“I’d probably expect to see him start on the bench, rather than in the starting XI.

“We’ll assess him properly and see where he is up to in terms of his fitness.”

Portsmouth fans have had their focus trained on the High Court this week as part of the club’s bid to stay in business.

A hearing into the value of Fratton Park was resuming in London this afternoon – the valuation key to a proposed takeover by the Pompey Supporters’ Trust.

Westley is just concentrating on events on the pitch, and thinks Guy Whittingham’s side are a good outfit.

He said: “When I’ve seen them play, they’ve been bright and decent.

“It can’t be easy for the players being at a club where the financial position is uncertain.

“They’re in the position where, all of a sudden, they might find themselves without a club.”