Will is aiming to make hay as PNE mini-slump is over

Will Hayhurst
Will Hayhurst
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Will Hayhurst admitted to a big sense of relief as Preston North End returned to winning ways last week and says the target now is hitting a consistent run of form.

The post-international break dip, which saw them beaten by Walsall and surrender a 3-0 lead against Chesterfield, made for an uneasy few days.

PNE steadied the ship with a solid victory over Crawley and tomorrow they head to Coventry looking for back-to-back wins.

Winger Hayhurst started both the Chesterfield and Crawley games in a three-man front line and hopes for the nod from Simon Grayson again at the Ricoh Arena.

Hayhurst said: “The way we played in the first half-hour in the Chesterfield game was the best for a long time I felt.

“So it was very disappointing what happened after that and we needed there to be reaction in the Crawley game.

“The gaffer got that reaction from us and we picked up the win which was a big result.

“What we need now is a winning streak, not just a one-off victory, and we have the team capable of doing that.

“We want to be in the top two and need to be winning game after game to do that.

“Our position at the moment is okay. Bristol City have started off very well at the top but we are only three points off second place and have a game in hand over some of the sides above us.

“We have a confidence about us – that didn’t get knocked out of us the other week.

“It is Coventry now and that is a good game to play in. They are now back at the Ricoh Arena which is a great stadium.

“Quite a lot of us played them at Northampton last season and it will be better playing them at their own ground.

“Coventry are a good team and we had two good games against them last year.

“They score goals but concede a few too. Hopefully, we can find out their weaknesses and exploit them.

“Last season’s 4-4 draw with them was crazy stuff – we don’t want a repeat of that.

“We went behind, got in front and looked like we had nicked in at the end, only for Coventry to get an equaliser, which was so frustrating.”

Hayhurst has been given more of a free role by PNE boss Grayson since returning to the side in the wake of the Walsall defeat.

It has been Hayhurst and Paul Gallagher either side of Joe Garner in a 4-3-3 system, which has seen some of the PNE faithful pull their faces at.

Recent injuries have limited options down the middle to partner Garner, although he has been, in the main, going it alone up front from the word go this term.

In the wider areas, plenty of other options are available, and for Hayhurst that means some stern competition for his place.

Gallagher, Chris Humphrey, Andy Little and Kyel Reid have all featured down the sides.

Reid’s pace should now be available on a regular basis, giving PNE’s play another dimension.

Said Hayhurst: “We have only got Joe up top at the moment but he has been fantastic.

“Out wide there is a lot of competition, with five or six of us pushing to play.

“It is tough competition but should bring the best out of us, which is what the gaffer wants.

“The way we have set up in the recent games has seen the gaffer give us freedom to play anywhere across the front three. I really enjoy that freedom rather than just staying out wide and running up and down the wing.

“Linking up with Joe and Gally is good and the more we play together, the better we shall be at doing that.

“We all have to be adaptable to whatever system we play and I’m just happy to be in the side.

“In a 4-4-2 you have to stay in your shape a bit more and as a winger you have to keep wide.

“When we have three up there you have more licence to move around and link up play.

“Gally does that very well, cutting inside. Joe Garner is a good player to play off with his movement. Having Joe in the team and all his goals is a huge boost to us.

“He is good in the air, holds the ball up well and causes problems when he runs at the opposition’s back four.

“Joe’s scoring rate has been exceptional over the past year but we recognise that goals need to come from all over the park in order to help him out. He is a big player for us, a great presence in the squad and every club wants a goalscorer like him.”

Hayhurst, 20, has featured in eight games this season – four starts and four off the bench.

And having been in every match-day squad to date, the local boy is delighted with his involvement since returning from last season’s loan spell at York.

“It is good to have been in and around the squad and hopefully that will continue to be the case,” said Hayhurst. “I felt that I had a good pre-season and I’ve tried to kick-on from last year.

“The three or four months at York did me good, got me a long run of regular first-team football. I feel that I’m improving all the time and getting more experienced.

“I don’t think you should ever stop learning as a footballer – most days there’s a new challenge.

“Starting the last couple of games has been a big boost and hopefully I can keep showing the gaffer what I’m capable of.”