Simon Grayson says that Preston North End’s chance of reaching the Wembley final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is not over but admits they have it all to do in the second leg at Walsall.
PNE head to the West Midlands trailing 2-0 to the Saddlers after last night’s clash at a sodden Deepdale.
The visitors capitalised on two defensive mistakes to score twice in the last six minutes and give them the advantage at the Bescot Stadium.
North End were left to rue a host of missed chances in the first half, Jermaine Beckford seeing two headers saved at point-blank range by Walsall keeper Richard O’Donnell.
Had they gone in, it would surely have been the Lilywhites in pole position going into the return leg.
The chances petered out in the second half, Grayson seeing that as a crucial part of the game.
Grayson said: “In the first half we got the ball out wide and put lots of crosses in.
“But in the second half we tried to go through the middle too many times where Walsall are very strong, they were compact and had players sitting in front of the back four making it difficult.
“When it didn’t happen, we needed to stay patient and at the very least make sure we were still in the tie – go to the second leg 0-0 if needs be.
“We have made things very difficult with the two goals we have given away.
“It is a disappointing dressing room but turning over this deficit is still achievable.
“Yes, it will be a difficult task but it is only a two-goal deficit.
“There is no away goals rule and we have been very good on the road.
“But we should have got more out of the game.
“We can go to Walsall and try and be the party-poopers.
“At the moment everything is riding in their favour, they are 2-0 up with 90 minutes to go.
“Last season we went there and turned them over comfortably, although earlier this season we were disappointing there.
“Last night we set out a team to be very positive, a very strong team which we thought could win the game.
“Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
Grayson felt too many of his team approached the tie with a one-game mentality rather than taking into account the two legs.
He said: “We should have made sure the worst case scenario was 0-0 and that we go down there with it all to play for, made sure we managed the game better.
“We should have played it like a two-legged affair.
“Too many of our players didn’t manage the situation well enough and think we still had another game to play.
“In first half we got the ball out to Chris Humphrey so many times but in the second half I can’t remember Chris putting a ball into the box which was probably not down to him but to him not getting the supply.
“Our full-backs didn’t join in enough, didn’t push their wide players back enough.”
North End will today assess an injury picked up by Beckford in the second half, the on-loan front man coming off with discomfort in his right hamstring.
Said Grayson: “Jermaine stretched for one, he thinks it might possibly be cramp or could be a slight strain.
“Substituting him was more a precaution than anything.”
The date for the second leg is expected to be announced today.
It has a provisional date for the first week of February but could moved to the last Thursday of this month if Sky Sports select it for live coverage.