Simon Grayson, the Preston North End manager, has urged his players to sign-off with a flourish at Sheffield United tomorrow, writes James Shield.
While Chris Morgan’s side prepare for the League One play-offs, North End enter the final round of the 2012/13 campaign ranked 14th in the table and reflecting upon eight disappointing months which saw them fail to live-up to their pre-season billing.
But Grayson, who took charge when Graham Westley was sacked 10 weeks ago, is under no illusions about the importance of this fixture.
Reflecting upon Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Crawley Town, he said: “We said to the players don’t go down with a whimper, make sure you give it your all because it is a long way for our supporters to travel. I felt disappointed because we want to win every game we are involved in.
“I thought we started the game poorly, allowed Crawley to dictate for the first 15 minutes and they got the goal in that time.
“Crawley looked a good team, they popped it around well and caused us a few problems, but we were a bit lethargic. We didn’t stop them from playing in the opening 20 minutes or press enough.”
Grayson was in charge of the Huddersfield Town side which beat United in last term’s divisional showpiece at Wembley. Having inherited a squad languishing perilously close to the relegation zone, the 43-year-old has since steered North End to safety but under no illusions he must fashion a team capable of challenging for promotion during the summer months.
Grayson, who has reminded North End they must show “intensity” and “energy” against sixth placed United, is expected to include Will Hayhurst in his starting eleven. The teenage winger worked with David Unsworth, now Morgan’s assistant, during his spell at Deepdale.
“David brought me through the youth team here so it will be good to see him again,” Hayhurst said. “I owe him a lot.”