PNE ready for away day tests

Joe Garner
Joe Garner
  • Three out of Preston’s final four games are away
  • North End face Port Vale at Vale Park on Friday night
  • Simon Grayson hopes Jermaine Beckford and Scott Laird will be fit
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Preston North End take to the road tonight for the first of a trio of away matches which will shape their season.

They are on their travels for three of the last four games, starting against Port Vale.

The three away games we have coming up are against teams desperate for points so there is everything to play for

Visits to Notts County and Colchester sandwich the one remaining game at Deepdale against Swindon.

Three victories and a draw would guarantee automatic promotion, irrespective of results elsewhere.

The travelling should not unduly worry PNE, with their away record the joint second best in League One.

Simon Grayson’s men won’t be without company at Vale Park, with a big following of supporters set to make the journey down the M6.

It might be that playing away takes some of the pressure off, as home matches can be nervy affairs at this stage of the campaign. North End boss Grayson said: “Talking to my staff about the Gillingham game, had we been 2-0 up away from home at half-time, I think we would have gone on and won.

“That is no fault of the supporters or players, it is just sometimes the mentality of it all – a stray pass at a home ground can lead to a little bit more anxiety.

“It is just the stage of the season we are at and it will be the same around the country, whether in the Premier League or Championship, or at the top or bottom.

“The three away games we have coming up are against teams desperate for points so there is everything to play for.

“We have been very good away from home this season, so we will go with confidence.

“We’ll be looking to build on our good away performances and in particular our last away result at Bradford which was very good. We are all focused on what we need to do and I will try and reassure all our supporters that we will get to where we all want to be.”

North End’s fitness concerns ahead of the visit to Vale centre on Jermanine Beckford and Scott Laird.

Both players came off with knocks in the second half of the Gillingham game and have been having treatment since.

Beckford’s form has been blistering in recent weeks, with seven goals in 10 games.

It will be hoped that his strike partner Joe Garner can hit the goal trail again.

Garner has failed to find the net in his last five matches but games against Vale seem to bring the best out of him.

He scored four goals in two meetings last season and earlier this campaign, netted in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over the Valiants.

The 27-year-old front man, scorer of 21 goals despite missing 10 weeks of the season through injury, was yesterday shortlisted for the League One player of the year award.

He is up against Bristol City midfielder Luke Freeman and Dele Alli of MK Dons, with the winner being announced at the Football League awards night being held at The Brewery, London, on Sunday, April 19.

Whether it is Garner, Alli or Freeman winning the award is down to the League One managers.

All 24 bosses were asked to vote, with their choices added-up to form the shortlist and an overall winner.