PNE striker's game of patience

Jordan Hugill's inclusion in the Preston North End side against Huddersfield brought to an end a long spell on the bench for the striker.

Monday, 8th February 2016, 1:11 pm
Updated Monday, 8th February 2016, 2:38 pm
Jordan Hugill has a shot against Huddersfield after making his first PNE start since late October

The 23-year-old had been among the substitutes for the last 17 games, getting on the pitch in 11 of them.

Hugill got his chance at the weekend when PNE manager Simon Grayson went with a 4-4-2 system – a formation he has not used a great deal this season.

Grayson was to later admit it had not worked, and he switched to 4-3-3 before the hour mark was reached.

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A double change saw Hugill and Callum Robinson substituted, with John Welsh and Daniel Johnson joining the action.

Said Grayson: “We went with the 4-4-2 to get a partner for Joe Garner up front.

“We put Jordan in, with Callum Robinson and Adam Reach on the wings to get balls into the box.

“It was a formation to really take the game to them but it probably wasn’t the right time to play 4-4-2.

“However, we decided to go with it, being the home team.

“When it didn’t pay off, we made the decision to switch to a 4-3-3 and that helped us get into the game more.”

Hugill’s one sight of goal came in the first half when he fastened on to a header from Garner to find some space in the box.

But his shot was well saved by Huddersfield goalkeeper Jed Steer, with Reach drilling the rebound wide.

The last time Hugill had been named in the starting XI was away at Brighton on October 24.

That was part of a three-game run in the team, with him also starting against Cardiff and Charlton.

Grayson had stated his intention to give Hugill more game time after not signing a striker during the transfer window.

He also wanted to see more of Robinson, with Saturday’s game being his first start since returning to PNE on loan from Aston Villa last month.

Reflecting on Robinson’s display, Grayson said: “It was difficult for a number of players.

“We didn’t get enough of the ball in the first place to get it to players in key areas.

“Callum was probably one of those who didn’t see much of the ball, as was Adam Reach.

“So they couldn’t affect the game in the way they are capable of doing.”

Grayson must decide whether to stick or twist with his team selection for this weekend’s visit to Wolves.

It could be that the starting XI for the Molineux clash is not quite as attacking on paper as the teamsheet for Huddersfield suggested.

But Grayson will want to see more urgency from his team than he saw for spells against Huddersfield, whatever system he chooses.

“Huddersfield played exactly how we thought they would but we were just too slow to close them down,” said Grayson.

“We let them get into their rhythm of passing and moving.

“Then when we did get the ball, we were too slow in our play – there were times when we could have picked a pass a lot sooner or someone chose to check back when they were on the ball.”