Welsh card opens door for PNE midfield options

Mark your card: Referee Rob Lewis books John Welsh at Ashton Gate
Mark your card: Referee Rob Lewis books John Welsh at Ashton Gate
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Simon Grayson sees the absence of John Welsh from Preston North End’s midfield as a chance for someone else to seize their opportunity in the team.

The PNE skipper collected his 10th yellow card of the season in the 1-1 draw with Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

That has triggered a two-match suspension which rules him out of the home clash with Carlisle this weekend and the Good Friday visit to Brentford.

PNE’s squad is pretty well stocked as far as the centre of midfield is concerned.

And Lilywhites boss Grayson hopes someone can step up to fill the vacancy.

Said Grayson: “It gives someone else the opportunity doesn’t it?

“John is obviously a competitive player and we have one or two other players who are around the nine-booking mark.

“It is just one of those things which can happen.

“We have other midfield options, with the two young kids Alan Browne and Josh Brownhill certainly showing what they are capable of when they came on at Bristol City.”

The two teenagers, together with Keith Keane and Neil Kilkenny, will compete for the central midfield berths.

It was Welsh and Kilkenny who started at Ashton Gate, with Keane an unused substitute.

Keane – who had filled in at right-back for Scott Wiseman recently – found himself on the bench after Grayson reverted to a 3-5-2 system with wing-backs.

He would offer a combative element to the midfield in the absence of Welsh. It might be that the centre of midfield has a whole new look, Kilkenny having been at fault for the Robins’ equaliser on Saturday.

Said Grayson: “Obviously Neil is going to rue not putting the ball into Row Z.

“He had done that a couple of times this season already.

“Neil is a footballer and wants to get the ball down and play but he made the wrong decision on this occasion, which gave Bristol City their equaliser.”

Although PNE’s hopes of automatic promotion are fading, Grayson will continue to drive his players on in the remaining five games of the campaign in readiness for the play-offs.

Climbing into third or fourth place would mean having the second leg at home.

Said Grayson: “Even before we drew at Bristol City, we said that getting into the top two was out of our hands.

“It could still happen and we will keep trying to win these last five games.

“Saturday was another game unbeaten and we will see where the next five games take us to.

“At the least the point we got put us mathematically in the play-offs.

“We have got a determined character about us and some good footballers who can hurt teams.

“As a team we can defend properly, pass the ball well and we’ve got people in and around the 18-yard box who are a big threat.

“If we’re frustrated about one thing over the last couple of weeks, it is that teams have not had to work too hard against us to score. That is something we will work on.”