PNE defender's on the front foot

Greg Cunningham got a pat on the back from Preston boss Simon Grayson for his forward-thinking approach in the Lancashire derby victory over Blackburn.

Monday, 12th December 2016, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:48 pm
Greg Cunningham gets to grips with Blackburn winger Liam Feeney

The left-back set up Callum Robinson for PNE’s winner, cutting in-field and finding his team-mate with a good pass.

Cunningham, last season’s player of the year, has carried his good form into this campaign.

Grayson said: “The winner on Saturday was a great goal.

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“It was a good run by Greg, he was very confident and positive, then he picked out the right pass.

“Greg is playing really well at the moment, he is a player who is very positive in his approach.

“We always encourage our full-backs to join in with the attacking play when the opportunity is on.

“It is one thing to do the first part in getting high up the pitch but I thought Greg was very composed to create the goal with his good play.”

Cunningham has played 19 of PNE’s 20 Championship games this season – suspension kept him out of October’s trip to Brighton.

That has meant limited game-time for Tommy Spurr, who signed in the summer to provide competition on the left side of the defence.

Spurr got a late run as a substitute against his former club Rovers, coming on in the 87th minute in place of Marnick Vermijl to help protect the lead.

Another player to catch the eye of Grayson at the weekend was Simon Makienok.

The Danish striker, who is on a season-long loan from Italian club Palermo, started alongside Jordan Hugill up front, with his presence key in both boxes.

Said Grayson: “Simon gives us something different, that is why we brought him to the club in the summer.

“He waited patiently for the opportunity to get back into the side and I thought he led the line really well.

“You know that you can put balls into the box for him and Jordan to get on the end of.

“He was a big part of what we did defensively too, to have his height back at set-pieces is very useful.

“I was really pleased with his all-round contribution.”

North End are on the road for their two games before Christmas.

They face Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Wednesday night, then go to Bristol City on Saturday.

Said Grayson: “Beating Blackburn was a good start to the week.

“This is a busy week for all clubs and an important one.

“If you were to lose all three, it puts you under a lot of pressure.

“But a run of positive results will put you in confident manner for the Christmas programme.

“We won a hard-fought game against Blackburn and now we get ready to face Nottingham Forest.

“Then it’s off to Bristol City on Saturday, so we’ve got two tough away games but ones we are looking forward to.”

Forest were beaten 3-0 by local rivals Derby County on Sunday lunchtime – a game watched by PNE staff.

That halted a run of three wins, Forest having beaten Newcastle, Barnsley and Ipswich.

Those wins had put the City Ground outfit back on track after three defeats and a draw.