PNE boss demands fast start

Simon Grayson pictured with Tom Barkhuizen
Simon Grayson pictured with Tom Barkhuizen

Simon Grayson is targeting a stronger start from Preston this season after two seasons of having to play catch-up.

Last year, PNE lost five of their first six Championship matches and dropped into the bottom three.

In 2015/16, they took four points from the opening two league games before hitting a nine-game run without a win.

The Lilywhites recovered to finish 11th both times but it should have been higher last term, a poor last month of the campaign seeing them slide from the play-off fringes.

North End boss Grayson said: “What we need to do is start the season better than we have done in the last two years in the Championship.

“We don’t want to have to play catch-up again.

“If we can start better, we might give ourselves a better opportunity of getting into the top six, which is something we would all like to do.

“It will be a tough division again and we want to do our best to finish higher.”

On Wednesday morning the fixtures are released by the Football League, with the new campaign kicking off on August 5.

The season’s opener will be followed by the Carabao Cup visit to Accrington Stanley.

PNE’s squad gathers for pre-season training a week on Thursday.

There could be a couple of new faces reporting for work that day, with more to follow as pre-season progresses.

The one new signing to be announced, Sean Maguire, is due to report on July 24.

He is joining from Cork City and North End have agreed to let him stay with the League of Ireland leaders until then.

Maguire scored twice in Cork’s 4-1 win over Limerick on Friday, taking his tally for the campaign to 18 goals.

The double also took him to 51 goals in his time playing in the League of Ireland. Also 
featuring for Cork in 
Friday’s win was left-back Kevin O’Connor, who is all set to follow Maguire to Deepdale.

If Maguire could bring his tremendous scoring form over the water, it would prove to be an astute buy for North End.

“Sean is a bit different to the other strikers we have at the club and it will be good to have him here,” said Grayson.

“It is a step up for him to come here but he is hungry for that challenge.

“The lad clearly knows where the back of the net is and if he can adapt as well as Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle have done, he’ll fit in well.

“Sean is on the periphery of the Republic of Ireland squad which shows what Martin O’Neill thinks of him.

“He’s been banging the goals in for Cork this season and got to a good number in relatively few games.

“We’ve got the deal for him done and by the time we come back we will probably have got a few more done.”