Solidity vital for Owls visit

Preston North End manager Simon Grayson
Preston North End manager Simon Grayson
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Simon Grayson will look for Preston North End to be more robust at the back when they entertain Sheffield Wednesday on New Year’s Eve.

The Lilywhites were beaten 4-1 by Leeds United on a grim Boxing Day – the first time they had shipped four goals at Deepdale since October 2011.

North End boss Grayson felt Leeds did not have to work particularly hard for their goals, such was the nature of his side’s defending.

He does not want to see a repeat of that when the Owls arrive in Lancashire on Saturday afternoon.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “For the opening stages of the Leeds game, there was nothing in it.

“I think the systems which both sides played, cancelled each other out a bit.

“We both had three players in midfield, one in the middle up front with lads either side on the wings.

“Leeds got a soft free-kick and we didn’t deal with the ball into the box.

“You aren’t always going to win the first ball but it is vital you deal with the second ball and unfortunately we didn’t do that.

“For their second goal, someone didn’t stay with the runner and Sacko put it into the roof of the net.

“When Marnick Vermijl scored to make it 2-1, we thought ‘right, we are on top here, let’s get an equaliser.

“But then we conceded the third goal which was very disappointing.

“We had worked all week on the fact Leeds have players who like to drive into the box from wide areas.

“What we needed to do was keep tight to them but we allowed their lad to get into the box a bit too easily to score.

“In the second half, I thought we had a good go at them right up until the sending-off.

“We had changed systems at half-time, gone three at the back and two up front.

“All in all, the goals which Leeds scored were ones they did not have to really work hard for, we gifted them to some extent.

“We cannot feel sorry for ourselves, although we all left the ground disappointed.

“Now we have to get ready for another big game at the weekend against Sheffield Wednesday.”

Grayson went with the same back four against Leeds which he had used in the 2-1 win at Bristol City before Christmas.

Paul Huntington partnered Tom Clarke in the centre of defence, with Alex Baptiste and Greg Cunningham in the full-back roles.

Huntington had dislodged Bailey Wright at Bristol City and got the nod to stay in for the Leeds clash.

It is a big few weeks coming up for Wright, with his future at Deepdale uncertain to say the least.

His contract runs out on June 30 and there is no sign of him agreeing a new deal.

The January window is the last opportunity for North End to get a fee for him.

While there has been a lot of speculation about interest in him, it is understood that no clubs have yet been in official contact about bidding for the Australia international.

Bristol City were linked with him and there has been talk of a move to China, a venture which other Australian players have taken.

But whether that would appeal at this stage of his career, remains to be seen.