We showed a lot of spirit – Grayson

Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Preston boss Simon Grayson was pleased to see his side silence some of their critics with victory at Chesterfield in the League One play-off semi-final first leg.

Grayson’s men surrendered second spot on the final day of the regular season as defeat at Colchester on Sunday consigned North End to another play-off campaign.

Much of the talk before Thursday night’s game was about whether Grayson could lift his troops following the disappointment of having to watch MK Dons follow champions Bristol City out of the division automatically.

But there was no hangover. Preston began brightly and confidently, and they took the lead after six minutes.

Joe Garner cleverly stepped over Chris Humphrey’s in-field pass, leaving his strike partner Jermaine Beckford with a clear path to goal. Beckford was coolness personified and casually chipped his shot past Tommy Lee.

The goal came during Preston’s only real spell of sustained pressure, while Chesterfield could not make the most of the numerous occasions they were on top and it was a frustrating night of near-misses for the hosts.

“There was a bit of criticism flying around at the weekend but we’ve shown a lot of spirit and character and when we’ve had to defend we have,” Grayson said.

“We’ve put bodies on the line, made blocks and done what defenders are supposed to do. As a team, we worked extremely hard to stop the opposition.

“Since Sunday afternoon I’ve thought about things, tinkered with the selection and the shape of the team.

“Even up to this you’re still deliberating about what you’re going to do, but ultimately we’re pleased how well the team have been doing and I was not going to get carried away by a 1-0 defeat.

“The players should have been given another opportunity. For large parts when we’ve had a setback this season we’ve always responded in the right manner and we’ve done that tonight.

“We are pleased that we have done well tonight but we aware that we’ve not done anything yet until Sunday.”

It took Chesterfield until midway through the first half to find their feet, but once they did they had Preston on the ropes for large spells of the match.

Dan Gardner and Gary Roberts forced Sam Johnstone into saves, while there were a handful of other opportunities where Preston were panicked, but the run of the ball inside the North End box was favouring the visitors.

The Spireites’ best chance came with nine minutes remaining. Sam Clucas whipped a cross in from the left and Ollie Banks, only just on as a substitute, arriving at the far post could only prod the ball over the crossbar from six yards out.

Despite the first-leg deficit, Chesterfield boss Paul Cook believes there is all still to play for at Deepdale on Sunday.

“After the disappointment of conceding early on, I thought we were terrific,” he said.

“If they had gone on and got a second goal, it would have left us with a mountain to climb, but that is not the case. At 1-0, the next goal in the tie is huge and we believe we can get it.

“It was a great night for our players because when you go up against these teams you can get found out, but that certainly never happened to us.

“We’ve got to believe in what we do. I do, our players do and our supporters do as well.

“I must say a big thank you to all our fans.”

Chesterfield have turned down an approach from Portsmouth for Cook, who at the final whistle waited until the pitch was clear to wave to all four sides of the Proact Stadium.

Construed as a wave goodbye by many inside the ground, Cook reacted angrily when asked about his future.

“Do us a favour,” he said. “Have a word with yourself.

“Don’t talk about that tonight. Talk about my players. Have some respect.”

Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor

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