PNE duo face a fight to get back
There is no guarantee fighting pair Jermaine Beckford and Eoin Doyle will come straight back into the North End fold after suspension, according to boss Simon Grayson.
The duo were sent off after nearly coming to blows late on in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, with their three-game bans ending ahead of the Boxing Day clash with Leeds at Deepdale.
Both Beckford and Doyle were fined, with the money being used to reimburse the 801 fans who made the trip to Hillsborough and witnessed the clash, over the Irishman deciding to play in Marnick Vermijl rather than his fellow striker, as PNE looked for a late leveller.
With Grayson’s side having picked up seven points in a week since then thanks to encouraging displays against Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City. any return to the matchday 18 is far from a given.
The pair had struggled for game-time prior to the incident and find themselves down the pecking order after impressive runs in the side from, first, Jordan Hugill and now, Simon Makienok.
“We did say to the players that got involved that if the group put in some decent performances then they might find it difficult to get back in,” said Grayson.
“We’ll see where we are on Boxing Day.
“People thought there might have been disharmony in the dressing room but that’s never been the case.
“We dealt with it within 24 or 48 hours and you can see how good the players have been since then.”
Grayson maintained from the moment the incident happened that there would be no long-term impact on his dressing room, his Lilywhites always having been known for a fine team spirit.
The form since then means he has more than been proved right.
“That was a one-off situation that I never anticipated I’d see in that group,” said the PNE boss.
“We’ve showed what this football club is about – the unity of the players.
“I didn’t think it would affect us and that’s proved to be the case, with the seven points out of nine we’ve picked up since then.
“It’s one of the best groups I’ve worked with.”
The impressive run of form has raised expectations at Deepdale, PNE 11th in the Championship and five points off the play-offs.
“We’ve got no expectancy levels,” said Grayson.
“We just keep plodding along and we’ll see where it takes us, that’s all we do week in, week out.
“I did say at the start of the season that if we manage, given the number of big teams and money spent in this division, to beat last season’s 11th place we’ll have had a hell of a season.
“We’re on course to do that but we’ve still got a lot more games to go to achieve that.”