Dan shows quality in PNE win

Daniel Johnson scored the winner
Daniel Johnson scored the winner
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Simon Grayson expressed himself happy enough with Preston’s performance in their victory over Walsall last night – despite having to endure one or two anxious moments during the latter stages.

A first-half goal from Daniel Johnson was enough to deliver a 1-0 win but really the winning margin should have been bigger.

Saddlers goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell made some good saves in the first half and twice the Lilywhites hit the woodwork through Paul Gallagher and Tom Clarke just after the interval.

Deepdale got nervous in the closing stages as Walsall went on the attack, with North End giving the ball away a number of times.

And in stoppage-time, it needed a reaction save from on-loan keeper Sam Johnstone to deny the visitors an equaliser.

Grayson said: “I thought for 60 minutes we were very good.

“We started the game excellently and played with a tempo with and without the ball.

“We created some good chances and I thought it was going to be deja-vu from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game when the Walsall goalkeeper made those two great saves in the first half from Jermaine Beckford.

“But we kept going and got the breakthrough with the goal.

“In the second half we probably gave the ball away a little bit too cheaply and allowed Walsall, who are a good footballing team, to get possession.

“Ultimately, I think Sam Johnstone has only had one save to make all game and we had 19 attempts – 10 or 11 of them on target – and we hit the bar and post too.

“Overall it was a good win and another clean sheet so we cannot be too disappointed with that.”

Johnson got his name on the scoresheet for the second game running after netting against Scunthorpe on Saturday.

And Grayson rejected complaints from the Walsall camp that Humphrey had fouled left-back Rico Henry in the build-up.

The PNE boss said: “Everyone has to chip in with the goals because of the system we play with Joe Garner up there on his own and Chris Humphrey and Callum Robinson out wide.

“You want your midfielders getting forward and that is something we were probably missing earlier in the season, hence why we brought Daniel in.

“I thought Daniel showed a lot of quality – a lot of Premier League quality.

“He has gathered the right ingredients from being at Aston Villa.

“We encourage him to get into the box and he finished it well.

“Chris Humphrey did well for the goal.

“He kept his composure and instead of firing it across the six-yard box, picked Daniel out with a pass.

“I didn’t think Chris fouled their lad in the build-up.

“He went to close him down like we encourage our players to do.

“As he got him, their lad has slipped and fallen over.

“People might see it differently but I didn’t think Chris pushed him, it was just an opportunity to work the lad.

“At half-time, we told the lads to go at them again, start the second half like we did the first.

“We did that, Gally hit the bar after 30 seconds and then Tom Clarke hit the post.

“Still at 1-0 you are worried something might happen.

“For all the possession Walsall had, they didn’t hurt us until a corner came in at the end and Sam dealt with it like he should do.”

Skipper Clarke clashed heads with James Chambers for the effort which hit the post and that ended his involvement.

Grayson added: “I’m led to believe Tom is fine. He went in to head the ball and has headed their lad at the same time.

“The medical department decided he wasn’t fit to continue.

“We will assess him over the next couple of days to see where he is for the weekend.”