Wembley beckons for PNE

Chris Humphrey
Chris Humphrey
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Simon Grayson wants one of his Preston North End players to emerge as a hero from their play-off second leg against Rotherham tonight.

The stakes are huge as PNE head to New York Stadium, a Wembley final against Leyton Orient awaiting the winners on May 25.

Grayson’s men will be backed by a 1,210 following in a sell-out crowd, those making the journey and those staying behind to watch on television hoping to see North End win a play-off away leg for the first time in their history.

Last Saturday’s first leg at Deepdale finished 1-1, Alex Revell’s opener for the Millers equalised by a Joe Garner stunner.

The away goal rule is no longer used in the play-offs, so a fourth draw of the season between the sides would see the tie go to extra-time and then penalties if necessary.

PNE boss Grayson said: “My players know what is at stake and know what tonight’s result can lead to, as do the Rotherham players.

“Before every game I tell them to make sure they come off the pitch having given everything, and I will be saying the same tonight.

“If you don’t get the result at least you will be able to look at yourselves in the mirror and say you gave it your best shot.

“On the other side of the coin, if you give it your best shot and win the game, then you can be a very proud person. Someone down the line is going to be a hero tonight and hopefully it will be a Preston North End player.”

With the Lilywhites having not fired on all cylinders in the home leg, it is likely that there will be changes tonight.

Grayson noted on Saturday that his second-half substitutes – Chris Humphrey, Keith Keane and Kevin Davies – had all made a decent impact.

As Garner showed with Saturday’s goal, Preston have the individuals capable of producing the skill needed to make the difference in a tight contest.

Said Grayson: “We have got players who can create things out of nothing.

“I have never been one to set my teams up as 11 robots and just play a certain way.

“You need individual skill and brilliance, as we saw from Joe in the first game.

“It is not always going to work but I will never criticise my players for trying to express themselves in the final third.”

PNE have been practising penalties should the tie go that far, although Grayson says what happens at Springfields is totally different to a match environment.

“We have practised them all season but the one difference is that we can’t get 10,000 people in the training ground to replicate the pressure and atmosphere,” said Grayson.

“I was involved in probably the biggest shootout in this competition two years ago with Huddersfield at Wembley – 22 penalties were taken.”