Preston North End boss Simon Grayson felt his decision to leave out winger Chris Humphrey and go ‘all out attack’ paid off as his men thumped Crewe Alexandra 5-1 at Deepdale.
Humphrey dropped to the bench as recalled striker Jermaine Beckford joined four-goal hero Joe Garner and Callum Robinson in a three-pronged attack.
Chris understood the decision and it has proved the right one
Beckford netted late on but Garner stole the show by treating the Deepdale faithful to a striking masterclass.
The extra firepower helped PNE to their biggest win of the season, although Humphrey played his part by helping the team score three goals after he had entered the fray as a substitute.
But Grayson believes his team’s attacking intent from the start proved telling at the final whistle.
He said: “We went with a front three of out and out goalscorers.
“I felt that Jermaine has looked sharp in training. We knew that they would play with three at the back so we played with three up top.
“Jermaine is a different player to Chris. Chris plays a little bit wider. Jermaine played more down the middle within the framework of the three.
“The three up front had the license to go and do whatever they wanted without having to do too much work defensively.
“We wanted them to go work their back three – or back five– as it turned out at times. You want your strikers to score goals and look like we are a threat. There were a lot of good individual performances.
“When you have options available you can tinker with your team. It is not an easy decision because when the team has been on the run like it has you think shall we keep it the same?
“But Chris understood the decision and it has proved the right one.”
Garner opened the scoring in the 12th minute before doubling his tally with a fine header in the 24th minute.
Oliver Turton reduced the deficit and the visitors thought they had levelled but Marcus Haber’s strike was chalked off for a foul.
But after the scare Garner pulled another wonder goal out of nowhere. And Grayson praised his 20-goal striker. He said: “Just when we needed the third one, Joe has come up with something special.
“I was stood right behind it and he was desperate to get it out of his feet and try and bend it into that top corner and that is where it ended up.
“It looks like Joe is getting back his real sharpness. He will be the first to admit he relies on the service of other players.
“The ball in from Paul Gallagher for his header (second goal) was a great goal.
“He gets his just rewards because of how hard he works both on the pitch and away.
“Joe has worked extremely hard to get back to the fitness levels. He is certainly a potent threat at this moment in time.”
The result ensured North End retained their grip on second spot in the League One table. And Grayson believes the result has sent a message to their promotion rivals.
He said: “We had to start with a tempo and that is what really got us going. 15 minutes at the start of both halves won us the game.
“We felt over the last few weeks things have been coming together and that somewhere down the line we would take teams to the sword. That is what happened on Saturday. The third goal really enabled us to kick on and show what we are capable of doing.”