All to play for says PNE ace Wright

Bailey Wright survives a penalty appeal during last weeks derby win at Blackburn
Bailey Wright survives a penalty appeal during last weeks derby win at Blackburn
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Bailey Wright says Preston North End are aiming to ‘stir things up’ at either end of the Championship during the closing stages of the season.

PNE face teams striving for promotion and battling the drop in the coming few weeks.

They start this weekend with a visit to the Riverside Stadium to face a Middlesbrough side chasing a top-two place.

The focus then turns to the other end of the table a week later with relegation-threatened MK Dons visiting Deepdale.

Later in the month, current leaders Burnley are in town for a Friday night clash.

Centre-half Wright is not giving up on North End making the top six either, although gate-crashing the play-offs looks the longest of shots in the wake of the midweek defeat to Fulham.

“Nothing is impossible and we will be giving it our best shot,” said Wright.

“You know what football is like, we will aim to win as many of the last six games as we can and see where that takes us.

“There is still a lot for everyone to play for in this division.

“Teams are trying to get promoted, into the play-offs or trying to stay in the league.

“We are playing teams at both ends of the Championship, so there are some tough games in there.

“Over the next few weeks we will see if we can stir a few things up in order to help ourselves.

“How it affects others doesn’t concern us, it is ourselves which we are bothered about.

“In the remaining few games we will aim to keep our standards high, that is important.

“At the start of the season, some people were saying that our only aim was to stay up.

“As a squad, we wanted a bit more than that – it was about having a good season, finishing as high up as possible and even setting ourselves up nicely for next season.

“This group of players believed we could do well, we knew what we were capable of and what we expected of each other.”

North End sit in 10th place, a position they have occupied for a few weeks now.

Had they won against Fulham, they would have climbed above Birmingham into ninth. But it was the Cottagers who took the three points at Deepdale, Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele scoring either side of a Marnick Vermijl equaliser.

“We were disappointed with the defeat although there were still some positives to take from the game,” said Wright.

“I thought we were a bit unlucky not to get anything, we had some good opportunities and limited Fulham to very few.

“Fulham took their chances and it proved to be a very frustrating night for us.

“When they went 1-0 up, there was a bit of time-wasting, which you don’t like to see.

“There was a bit of disruption with Tom Clarke and Calum Woods having to go off injured in the first half but I thought we adjusted to that.

“Once we got back to 1-1 in the second half I thought we would go on to win the game but sadly it wasn’t to be.”

Middlesbrough will provide a formidable test on Saturday, the Teessiders second in the table and on a run of three straight wins which righted a wobble in form last month.

Up front they have £11m striker Jordan Rhodes, with the Premier League quality of Gaston Ramirez behind him in the No.10 role.

Said Wright: “Middlesbrough are doing well at the top end of the table, they have had a really good season.

“Their team is packed with good players and their target is to get promoted automatically.

“It will be a tough game up there but we believe we can do well, as we do in any game.

“We will go there, enjoy our football and hopefully bring back a good result.

“In the first game of the season we drew 0-0 with them and had to work really hard.

“We set ourselves a good marker that day for the rest of the season, that was the standard which we needed to reach on a consistent basis.

“Middlesbrough were one of the favourites for promotion at the start of the season and have lived up to that.

“They will be aware that we have done well against the top teams during the season.

“We have enjoyed testing ourselves against those clubs with the big squads and budgets.”

Wright spent last month’s international break in Australia, helping the Socceroos take a step closer to the 2018 World Cup.

Victories over Tajikistan (7-0) and Jordan (5-1) saw them top their qualifying group.

They now face another round of qualifying in the Asia section, with South Korea and Japan among the sides they could meet.

“It was good to get the two wins and to finish on top of the group,” said Wright.

“Jordan were our closest rivals but we beat them well and it could have been more.

“Harry Redknapp was the Jordan coach – he took the job for a couple of games.

“He was on our flight home and came to speak to the lads who were travelling back here.

“Harry congratulated us and wished us all the best for the rest of qualifying which was a nice thing to hear.”