Westley wants battle for PNE No.1 jersey

Exit: Steve Simonsen
Exit: Steve Simonsen
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Graham Westley says he is looking at several options to provide goalkeeping competition for Thorsten Stuckmann after freeing Steve Simonsen from his Preston North End contract.

Simonsen’s exit from Deepdale by mutual consent was confirmed yesterday, the 33-year-old leaving half-way through his 12-month deal.

North End recently took ex-Chelsea keeper Rhys Taylor on non-contract terms, the Welshman among the ‘irons in the fire’ Westley is considering to push Stuckmann for the gloves.

Westley told the Evening Post: “We have seen Simo and Stucki fight a battle for the first half of the season.

“Neither of them quite nailed down the shirt and I just thought looking forward that if Simo wasn’t going to get the game-time he wanted, it would be beneficial to come to an agreement with him.

“The injury he got at Coventry the other week was the starting point of the chat we had and it went from there.

“In the meantime, Rhys Taylor has kindly come in and filled the void created, first by Simo being injured, and now leaving.

“I’m giving Rhys a fair crack of the whip to show us what he is all about and what he can do here.

“I’ve got several irons in the fire. Rhys is one of those and he’s still with us after first coming to us 10 or so days ago.”

Simonsen joined Preston in early August as a free agent, having been released by Sheffield United at the end of last season.

Earlier in the summer, the club had signed Richard Wright as competition for Stuckmann, but the former Arsenal and Ipswich shot-stopper left shortly after the start of pre-season training.

Wright subsequently joined Manchester City as their third-choice keeper, and North End took a number of keepers on trial before bringing in Simonsen.

He made 17 appearances in the PNE keeper’s jersey, displacing Stuckmann from the team in League One action in September.

Westley has not been afraid to swap between them, Stuckmann playing 20 times and he will face Coventry at Deepdale this weekend.

Simonsen’s final game was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to the Sky Blues at the Ricoh Arena 13 days ago.

He was beaten twice in stoppage time as Coventry came from behind to win 3-2, although had suffered a knee injury just before.

Westley, who scouted Brentford’s clash with Leyton Orient last night, hopes to be getting some better news out of the treatment room as he turns his attention to this weekend.

The PNE boss admitted he was carrying an injury-hit squad ahead of last Saturday’s scheduled visit to Yeovil, which was subsequently postponed after heavy snow left the area surrounding Huish Park dangerous.

Said Westley: “In respect of the injuries we had, I suppose you could say the postponement came at a good time.

“We had a lot of lads carrying knocks from a busy period of games, so it’s been nice to have a clear few days to get one or two of them back.

“On Saturday morning we had a game against the youth team and I only had 15 fully fit lads to pick from.

“That shows the extent of the injury situation and going to Yeovil would have been difficult in that situation.

“I think we’ll have a couple of them back this weekend, which is good news.”

Meanwhile, North End’s visit to Yeovil has been rearranged for Tuesday, February 12, with a 7.45pm kick-off.

Tickets purchased for the original date remain valid, but supporters who are unable to make the rearranged game can claim a refund.

The visit to Yeovil comes four days after the away game at Colchester – two of the longest trips of the season.