PNE need a show of strength

Preston striker Joe Garner had a penalty saved against MK Dons
Preston striker Joe Garner had a penalty saved against MK Dons
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Simon Grayson expects a strong response by Preston North End to their poor second-half show against MK Dons when they face Birmingham at St Andrew’s tonight.

The Lilywhites let two points slip from their grasp on Saturday and Grayson was heavily critical of his team.

He is backing them to be better in the Midlands, this a first visit to the home of the Blues for seven years.

North End manager Grayson said: “I felt it was deserved criticism of the players at the weekend.

“For 90% of the season they have been very good but on Saturday it was so disappointing.

“It could have been three valuable points but it was two thrown away.

“The lads are a great bunch to work with and there have been few days like Saturday this season – that is why it was so frustrating.

“In the past when we have had a bad performance, we have tended to go straight back out and get a good result.

“We cannot shy away from it being a poor performance against MK Dons but overall it has been a fantastic season.

“These players have got good standards and we want to get back to matching them.

“There are four games to go and I want as many points from them as possible.

“I don’t want the team to end up in 15th or 16th place or in that region.

“We don’t deserve to finish in that area of the table, I think we deserve to finish around eighth, ninth, 10th or 11th.”

One of the positives from the MK Dons draw was the return to the starting XI of Jermaine Beckford.

Grayson has to decide if to start him again tonight or use him from the bench, mindful of the quick turnaround before Friday night’s derby with Burnley at Deepdale.

“Jermaine and Eoin Doyle looked a good partnership on Saturday, especially in the first half,” said Grayson.

“We gave Joe Garner a bit of a breather and there is also Jordan Hugill to play up there.

“With Jermaine we have to be careful with how much we use him, people might expect him to start all the games.

“His knee is fine but having been out for so long, you have to be careful that his muscles don’t get fatigued and cause injuries in other areas.”

Who PNE will place on penalty duty these next four games will be interesting, Garner having seen one saved by MK Dons stand-in keeper Alex Revell after coming on as a sub.

Said Grayson: “It was a very good save, looking at it again – a lot of keepers would have been pleased with it.

“I don’t think it will affect Joe, he will probably want to take the next penalty.

“Whether he takes it, I don’t know – there will be others queuing up wanting to take it.

“We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

“Joe had scored his previous penalty at Blackburn a couple of weeks before – he went for the other side that time and was successful.”