PNE ready to shuffle pack

Pat on the back: Joel Byrom
Pat on the back: Joel Byrom
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A reshuffle of the Preston North End side is on the cards as Graham Westley looks to steer North End back on course at Portsmouth this weekend.

Successive league defeats to Leyton Orient and Crewe will prompt changes, with the visit to Fratton Park the first of three away games in the run-up to Christmas.

North End boss Westley believes the injuries to Scott Laird and Keith Keane have not only robbed PNE of their first-choice full-backs but deprived the side of some character too.

It is with that in mind that he is considering changing things around for Saturday’s long haul to the south coast.

Said Westley: “In times of difficultly, the character of the team was lacking on Saturday and we need more character in there.

“I have got to shuffle the pack a little bit to make sure I have a team out there which, in good times and bad, can deliver the goods at character level.

“If you don’t show character in games, you win nothing.

“Clearly we have lost our way since losing Laird and Keane.

“I was under no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming those two knocks.

“They are big players, massive players – arguably our two best players this season.

“But let’s not get into a mind-set where people think we are delivering a pile of excuses here.

“We have lost the players and have to get on with life.

“What we have to do is reshuffle the team so it has got the right attributes to go out and win games.

“The fact we have lost two games since the injuries speaks for itself – I haven’t got it right.

“I take full responsibility for that and have to get things right. I have to work out who are the right players to fill the shirts throughout the 11, so that we have a team which is physically, technically, tactically and mentally able to win games.

“We have lost tacklers from the team, people who can go and impose themselves and dominate with their aggression.

“When they do that, it spreads confidence to other players.

“If you don’t have that available then you need to make sure you put it into the team somewhere else perhaps.

“It’s my job to solve the problem but I haven’t got there yet.”

Part of the reshuffle is likely to be a return to action for Stuart Beavon, who missed the Crewe defeat because of illness.

North End were light in attack without him, Anthony Elding handed his first start in PNE colours up front.

Westley had words of praise for Joel Byrom, the midfielder being introduced as a 63rd-
minute substitute on Saturday.

That might give some indication that he is in line for a recall.

Westley said: “I think Joel Byrom was an exception, in that he came on and was excellent in that time.

“I think the players will be honest enough to admit that individually and collectively they didn’t do enough.”

PNE are staging an indoor soccer school for children during the Christmas holidays.

It runs on December 24, 27, 28 and 31 at on Tag Lane.

Contact 01772 693300 or to book places.