PNE keepers fighting for first-team shirt

Steve Simonsen
Steve Simonsen
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Graham Westley is challenging both of his goalkeepers to help improve Preston North End’s goals against column.

It’s a two-way battle for the gloves between Steve Simonsen and Thorsten Stuckmann, with Simonsen likely to get the nod against his former club Tranmere at Prenton Park today.

The 33-year-old came back into the North End side in the midweek victory against Scunthorpe after Stuckmann had played in the previous five League One games.

Westley is anxious to see more clean sheets, with PNE having conceded 18 goals in the league this term.

And in a bid to achieve that, he’s giving both Simonsen and Stuckmann the opportunity to perform.

“It’s a question of the goalkeeping department being under pressure to improve its performance,” Westley told the Evening Post.

“No one at the club will look at the goals against record and be proud of it, we are all disappointed to be where we are in terms of goals conceded.

“The goalkeeping department has to play a big part in taking the lions’ share of responsibility in that regard.

“Steve and Thorsten are aware of the work I want them to do to drive their performance forward, and they’re both working with the goalkeeping coach on those issues.

“I don’t think rotation is the right word when it comes to who plays and who doesn’t play in a game.

“Rotation is not what I believe in – what I believe in is picking a side which I think will win that particular match.

“If that means someone going in and someone going out, then that will happen.”

Westley says his team selection in all positions – not just the keepers – is likely to start settling down now that he’s had a good look at his re-built squad over the opening two-and-a-half months of the campaign.

All of the squad, bar the injured Lee Trundle, have seen first-team action, and it’s the North End manager’s intention that things will settle down.

Said Westley: “I would like to think that people will step up to the plate and put in a level of performance game by game which would mean I can’t do anything but select them every time.

“That is where we want to get to.

“I think it has been important to look at the different options early in the season, give everyone a chance to pull on a shirt and show what they can do in league action.

“The squad has been given an opportunity to show what they are about, a chance to settle in and be given a fair crack of the whip.

“As we go forward there will be stability.

“Someone pointed out to me this week that at my last club, I barely ever changed the keeper and back four.

“It was always Chris Day in goal, Ronnie Henry at right-back, Scott Laird left-back, with Mark Roberts and Jon Ashton the centre-backs.

“Then in front of them it was Michael Botswick.

“Such consistency here can give us stability and that is a point we will reach.”