PNE’s new year bonanza

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Simon Grayson was delighted to see Preston North End get 2014 off to a winning start with a success over Port Vale which strengthened their promotion credentials.

Two goals from Joe Garner and a wonderful Paul Gallagher finish saw North End take a three-goal lead in the first hour of the Deepdale contest.

Hero: Joe Garner celebrates his second goal against Port Vale at Deepdale

Hero: Joe Garner celebrates his second goal against Port Vale at Deepdale

It was a nervous finish though, as the visitors reduced the arrears first through Gavin Tomlin and then by a header from substitute Jordan Hugill.

But the Lilywhites hung on to make it nine points out of nine from the Christmas matches.

While still in fourth spot in the League One table, they are now just two points off second-placed Wolves and one behind Leyton Orient.

Below them, Peterborough have dropped eight points behind.

PNE boss Grayson said: “We made it a little bit harder work for ourselves than we should have done and the scoreline will reflect that.

“But for 70 minutes we were very good and that should not be overlooked. We were patient in our play, created some good chances and passed the ball around really well.

“You can look at different factors as to why Port Vale got back into the game like they did. First and foremost, they had nothing to lose. They went 4-2-4 and got the ball up into our box a lot.

“At times we couldn’t deal with their physical presence. We tired a little bit and perhaps got a bit nervous when their second goal went in.

“But we did what we had to do to win the match and we saw it through.

“Had we scored a fourth goal when we were on top, it would have been a really comfortable afternoon. ”

North End’s goals came in a strong spell of pressure either side of the interval.

Said Grayson: “At half-time I told the players that they were doing okay but they needed to do things a bit quicker.

“We needed to pass it quicker and move Port Vale around more, change the direction of the play.

“The movement of our front two was very good and we got the goals which I thought our play deserved,

“Garner is on a good run of form at the moment – he gives everything for the shirt.

“He has an excellent spring to meet crosses in the air and should probably have had a couple of more goals in the first half with a couple of free headers.

“I decided to play Garner with Iain Hume up front because I was looking for a bit more freshness.

“The Port Vale centre-halves would probably have been quite comfortable if we had Kevin Davies up front, so I thought the movement of Garner and Hume would cause them problems – and it did.

“Nine points from three games over Christmas is excellent. The supporters were great and stuck with us. They got a bit nervous at the end which you would expect, so it was nice to send them home happy.”

Before the game, North End confirmed the signing of 18-year-old midfielder Alan Browne from Cork City.

A deal was agreed to buy Browne in the autumn.