Key trio of games says PNE boss

Tommy Spurr was recalled to the Preston team against Queens Park Rangers
Tommy Spurr was recalled to the Preston team against Queens Park Rangers
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Simon Grayson believes the next three games will have a big bearing on how Preston’s season shapes up.

This weekend’s Gentry Day trip to Fulham is followed by a visit to Derby three days later.

North End then return to Deepdale to host Reading a week on Saturday.

Fulham are a point ahead of Grayson’s men in the pack of clubs below the play-offs.

Next Tuesday’s opponents Derby are in 11th place, having slipped off the pace of late.

Reading occupy fifth after a 3-0 defeat at Brighton at the weekend.

North End briefly rose to eighth place in the wake of the 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers, before Norwich’s 1-1 draw with Ipswich knocked them back to ninth on Sunday.

Grayson said: “We will keep trying to win matches and see where that takes us.

“This is a really spirited group and just four defeats in 26 league games shows that we have a consistency about us.

“I said ahead of the QPR game that I would like us to go on a run of wins and we have won three out of the last four.

“We have got some big games coming up over the next couple of weeks against Fulham, Derby and Reading.

“They are going to be big games in terms of what the outlook could be for the rest of the season.

“People on the outside are probably not talking about us, which might suit us.”

One aspect of Grayson’s planning for Fulham and the games beyond, will be sorting out the right-back issue.

With Tyias Browning out for six weeks after suffering a knee injury in training, North End started 3-4-3 against QPR.

Tommy Spurr got a recall to play alongside Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington at the back, with Daryl Horgan and Greg Cunningham in the wing-back positions.

For the second half, they switched back to 4-4-2 with Cunningham at right-back and Spurr on the left.

For Spurr, it was his first appearance for a month and the move from the middle to left-back after the interval suited him.

Said Grayson: “I think he looked more comfortable at left-back – like the rest of the team, he grew into the game.

“To start with, I decided to put Tommy in the middle as he is naturally left-footed.

“Andy Boyle could have played but I thought having a left-footed player would give us more balance.”

There was the option of playing Tom Clarke at right-back but Grayson did not want to move him out of the middle.

“I didn’t want to break-up Tom’s partnership with Paul Huntington, especially against a centre-forward like Matt Smith,” said the North End boss.

“Also, Hunts only passed a fitness test on Friday morning so I had to consider that.”