PNE's reason to be jolly!
Simon Grayson says Preston will enter Christmas in good spirits '“ but with their feet still on the ground '“ after a good run of form in the past week.
The 2-1 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate followed last Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest and the derby win against Blackburn.
PNE will go into the Boxing Day clash with Leeds at Deepdale – the halfway mark of the season – with 32 points.
They are five points shy of sixth-place Sheffield Wednesday, who are their opponents on New Year’s Eve.
North End boss Grayson said: “Beating Blackburn last week took the pressure off a bit and we have since built off that win.
“We have played very well, it’s encouraging but we are not getting ahead of ourselves.
“On Boxing Day we have got a tough game against Leeds and then Sheffield Wednesday after that.
“It’s been an enjoyable few days and now we’ve got a bit of a chance for a breather before the hard work starts again.”
Grayson had kept the squad together after the Forest game, the preparations for the trip to Bristol City being done at Leicester’s training ground.
Simon Makienok and Daniel Johnson scored the goals which gave them victory over the Robins, DJ’s winner coming five minutes from time after Aaron Wilbraham had equalised.
For the opening 20 minutes, North End had been unable to get near their hosts.
However, Makienok tucked away their first chance of the contest to put them in front.
Said Grayson: “Credit to Bristol City for the way in which they started. We were too high up the pitch in terms of allowing the pockets of space to open up for them to play in.
“Once we dropped five yards deeper, it didn’t allow them any room to play through us.
“When they did try to do that, we picked them off and broke very quickly.
“We have players who can carry the ball up the pitch and can see passes – we are a good counter-attacking team.
“For the first goal, Callum Robinson put a great ball into the box and Simon was in the right place at the right time to produce a great finish.
“After the equaliser, we kept two up top in order to try and win the game.
“DJ carried us up the pitch and showed an eye for goal.
“It doesn’t matter how it went in, I’m just glad it went in because we’d had better chances to score.”
Grayson was able to call on Ben Pearson, the midfielder having recovered from a painful foot injury which had forced him out of the Forest game in the second half.
He gave Paul Huntington only his third Championship start of the season, with Aiden McGeady back in the team after a groin strain.
“Ben is a tough cookie and was able to train with the team on Friday,” said Grayson.
“It was a bit of a Lazarus because on Thursday he was hobbling around.
“We changed the team a bit with Bailey Wright and Marnick Vermijl going out.
“It was done for the best reasons, we wanted Paul Huntington’s height to cope with Aden Flint.”