PNE ‘can still turn it around’

Defiant: PNE boss Graham Westley
Defiant: PNE boss Graham Westley
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Manager Graham Westley concedes that one league win in the last three months for Preston North End is ‘an appalling run of form’ but thinks he can still turn fortunes around.

North End’s 1-0 defeat to Colchester at the Weston Homes Community Stadium meant the gap between them and the bottom four narrowed to just five points.

The pressure grows on Westley by the game, with many PNE supporters clearly having lost faith in him and calling for a change.

He’ll be in charge for tomorrow night’s trip to Yeovil, the first of three matches against promotion-challenging sides with Bournemouth and Swindon to follow.

Last week, Peter Ridsdale commented that North End’s position was ‘wholly unacceptable’ and the concern of the club’s hierarchy will only have deepened with the Colchester loss.

Westley said: “The challenge is to put a side on the field which consistently wins games for Preston North End.

“We are on the most appalling run of form, there is no hiding from that, although the performances aren’t dreadful.

“They are short of the mark in terms of a winning level but I don’t think anyone could say performances are massively short of the mark.

“It’s very much down to fine margins. We have to remain confident, not allow all of the negativity which will inevitably come with Saturday’s result to surround us.

“There are things we are doing right and we have to add other things to that. Confidence is playing its part at the moment, any football team which has lost some games and hasn’t been picking up wins is hardly going to be at the height of its prowess.

“We need that little break to fall our way – we needed Andy Procter’s header to go in on Saturday, we needed Lee Holmes’ shot to go in rather than hit the bar.

“There is a lack of confidence at the moment, born out of the fact that we are stuck in a rut.

“We have a lot of big enough players here to concentrate on the job at hand.

“What we have to do is make sure we restore confidence by getting our work ethic right, keep our togetherness and keep pushing towards a different place.

“People have to show their character, during times like this your character gets tested.

“I can’t speak for every player in the squad and can’t say that every player is absolutely going to show the character which is required to deal with the situation.

“What I am sure of is that the character will spread from the top and into plenty of the players who will respond in the right way.”

North End were beaten by Freddie Sears’ 55th minute goal at Colchester, the former West Ham front man finishing from close range after Thorsten Stuckmann has got a glove to Jabo Ibehre’s shot in a one-on-one.

It was Ibehre who was later involved in a controversial incident which resulted in a red card for Bailey Wright.

A foul by Wright on Sears led to a yellow card for the Aussie defender, then he tangled with Ibehre as PNE prepared to defend the resulting free-kick.

Referee Mark Haywood had his attention drawn to the incident by one of his assistants, with him booking both players –that resulting in Wright being sent-off.

Coming five days after an appearance before an FA disciplinary panel, it wasn’t the best timed incident.

Westley said: “Their centre forward put his hand in Bailey’s face and throat - Bailey had got the rake marks around his throat to evidence that.

“I don’t think the referee saw it and I’m not sure the linesman saw it 100% which would be born out by two yellow cards being given.

“The linesman got a glimpse that something happened, and I guess he has nominated the two players involved and worked out that they were both having a slice of the action.

“For me it was a straight red card for the centre forward and not a second yellow for Bailey.

“We’ll have to take that on the chin because we can’t appeal a sending-off for two bookings, and Bailey will miss Yeovil.”