Simon Grayson has declared himself happy with pre-season programme and now has the campaign’s opener at Reading firmly in his sights.
The weekend’s goalless draw with Bolton brought the first-team friendlies to a close, although a young PNE XI which plays at Lancaster City tomorrow night (7pm) could include a couple of senior players in need of game time.
North End boss Grayson will use this week to fine-tune the squad for Reading and has an open mind about the team for the Madejski Stadium clash.
Grayson told the Evening Post: “The pre-season is a means to an end and the games don’t really give supporters and players the adrenaline rush which they will get at 3pm this Saturday.
“Players are different animals in pre-season to what they are during the season.
“We are pleased with how we have progressed during the last few weeks, pleased with the squad we have got.
“Now we want to carry some of the performances from the pre-season into the proper matches.
“In terms of who plays, it has always been a clean slate since we came back.
“I had no pre-conceived ideas of who would play and what system we use.
“Those looking fit, strong, sharp and confident will start in the team.
“Whoever starts next week, that will be their opportunity to keep hold of the shirt.
“More often than not, you can start the season and not finish it in terms of the most appearances.
“That is how football works, injuiries, suspensions, lack of form and other people playing well, will shape things over the course of 46 games.
“We have a clear week to work on a few things and get some good work into the lads.”
Grayson was missing the services of Tom Clarke and Alan Browne against Bolton.
Skipper Clarke had a virus, while Browne was rested on doctor’s orders after getting a bang on the head in last week’s friendly at Morecambe.
The Irish midfielder was due to resume training with the squad this morning.
At Bolton, Grayson used Liam Grimshaw at right-back again in a four-man defence.
North End remain on the look out for a right-back to cover the loss of Calum Woods for the season.
For now though, the versatile Grimshaw provides an option for the right-hand side of the defence.
Said Grayson: “We are trying to sign a right-back, we are talking to a couple of clubs about a couple of players.
“Liam Grimshaw is an adaptable player, he has looked fit and strong.
“We have played him there in the last two games, he gets forward well and has defended well in one-versus-one situations – he is an option for us.
“On Saturday, Tom Clarke missed the game because he had a virus – he is another one who could play at right-back.
“We have got a couple of options but I would like another one in there.”