PNE boss demands goals from the back

Greg Cunningham has been on target  but must stay out of trouble today
Greg Cunningham has been on target  but must stay out of trouble today
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Preston North End’s defenders are being challenged by Simon Grayson to get themselves on the scoresheet in the last 10 games of the season.

Ahead of the Gentry Day clash with Bolton at the Macron Stadium today, only one defender – Greg Cunningham – has scored in the Championship.

In last season’s promotion campaign, Paul Huntington was PNE’s fourth highest scorer with nine goals in all competitions.

But he has not been able to rediscover that form in the opposition penalty box so far this term.

North End boss Grayson said: “I would have thought one of the centre-backs would have scored by now but that has not been the case.

“Last season when balls were being put into the box, we got on the end of them a lot.

“You look at Hunts for example, he had a run last season when he always looked like he was going to score.

“He got on a run when one became two, then soon became three and four.

“Hunts had a really good scoring record – he scored at Wembley.

“This season, we have still had quality deliveries into the box from Paul Gallagher and we’ve attacked the ball well.

“It is just that the goalkeeper has made saves or the ball has hit the woodwork.

“Ideally, we want goals from all positions in the team.

“Calum Woods has been threatening to score lately – he’s got into some really good positions and I think he is due his first goal for us.”

As well as Huntington’s nine goals last season, skipper Tom Clarke netted twice and Bailey Wright once.

On the goals front this term, Daniel Johnson remains the top scorer with eight – seven of them in the league.

Gallagher and Joe Garner have five each, with Adam Reach having netted four.

Garner will miss the Bolton game and next’s weekend’s visit of Queens Park Rangers to Deepdale because of suspension, triggered by 10 yellow cards.

It is the striker’s third ban of the season – the first was for reaching five bookings and the second for his red card against Wolves in September.

Grayson refuses to be too critical of Garner’s discipline, and is of the view that some of the yellow cards have bordered on being harsh.

The caution on Tuesday night at Nottingham Forest which led to this latest ban particularly frustrated Grayson, who felt his striker had been booked unjustly.

Said Grayson: “Some of the bookings Joe has picked up have been really harsh.

“The one at Forest was a prime example of where Joe’s reputation went against him.

“He plays on the edge but has matured as a player, he has adapted his game to a certain degree this season but is still a competitive player.”

Garner got his ban just as the FA’s amnesty for 10 yellow cards was coming into view.

After this weekend, the number of bookings which triggers a suspension in the Football League rises to 15.

Defender Cunningham needs to stay out of trouble today – he is on nine bookings and the only North End player at risk of a ban.