Simon's all smiles

Simon Grayson felt Preston's performance in the victory over Reading was one of their best of the season.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:50 am
Tom Barkhuizen celebrates after scoring the third goal in the victory against Reading

The 3-0 win lifted them up to eighth place, six points shy of Sheffield Wednesday who occupy the final play-off slot.

After riding early pressure from the fifth-placed Royals, Tom Barkhuizen and Daryl Horgan scored twice in nine minutes to give North End a commanding half-time lead.

Barkhuizen netted again four minutes into the second half to make sure of the three points.

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Asked how the display ranked in the season, PNE boss Grayson said: “All round, you would have to say that it was right up there.

“When you consider who we were playing against and how defensively we stood strong and firm in the first 20 minutes, you could not help but be impressed with how we played.

“We defended properly and that gave us a platform to allow the ball players to go and express themselves.

“I’ve seen Reading play a few times this season and them having 70% of the play against Newcastle last week showed what they are about.

“They are a good team and Jaap Stam has done a fantastic job there.

“Teams play in different ways throughout the division and it is about doing what is required to try and beat them.”

Barkhuizen’s double took his tally to four goals in three games.

He also set up Horgan’s goal, running from the edge of his own box after North End had cleared a corner.

“Some players are quick without the ball, while there are those like Tom who can carry the ball and not look any slower,” said Grayson.

“He offers a major threat and has done really well since coming here.

“Tom knows he has to keep working hard because we had a very strong bench with some good players waiting for their chance to come.

“Towards the end he came off with cramp in his calves.

“He’s got a few days now to recover and get ready for the local derby at Blackburn.”

Grayson used Barkhuizen alongside Jordan Hugill in the attack, with Horgan and Aiden McGeady on the wings.

Callum Robinson dropped down to the bench, while Paul Gallagher missed the game with a knee injury.

Said Grayson: “Gally took a knock to his knee at Derby.

“We felt Daryl coming in would give us something a bit extra and allowed us to play Tom down the middle.

“Tom gave us that threat with the ball, while Jordan worked extremely hard as a foil for us.

“We’ve got players going in and out of the team, it doesn’t make us weaker – it makes us stronger because we have the options to change.”