Scouting report: Preston North End

A closer look at Saturday’s visitors to Macron Stadium

Ahead of Preston North End's visit to Macron Stadium on Saturday, take a closer look at Simon Grayson's side...

Preston North End will be looking to build on their mid-table showing heading into the new season, after impressing in their first year back in the Sky Bet Championship last time around.

Like any newly promoted side survival is often the main objective, but the Lilywhites’ exploits caught the eye of their fellow clubs with an unlikely play-off push even looking a possibility at one point.

Keen to push on once more, North End have certainly made their intentions known so far this summer, bringing in Simon Makienok on a season-long loan alongside Anders Lindegaard, Ben Pringle, Callum Robinson, Chris Maxwell, Eoin Doyle and Tommy Spurr on permanent deals.

Manager Simon Grayson will be disappointed to lose defender Calum Woods to a knee injury however, with the 29-year-old expected to be sidelined for the entire season after coming off injured against Oldham Athletic in their pre-season friendly last week.

Unbeaten throughout pre-season, Preston have also clinched victories over Bamber Bridge, Chorley and Morecambe, as well as a credible draw with Premier League Stoke City, and will be looking to maintain that record heading into their final warm-up fixture at Macron Stadium this weekend.

Relegated to the third tier in 2011, Preston North End endured a tough two campaigns in Sky Bet League One before Simon Grayson’s appointment as manager.

Taking on the role in February 2013, a play-off semi-final defeat to Rotherham United followed in his first full season in the Deepdale hotseat, before North End managed to secure promotion in 2015 courtesy of a 4-0 Play-Off Final victory over Swindon Town.

Leading his side to a solid mid-table finish last season following their return to the second tier, the 46-year-old has a proven track record having won promotion with Blackpool, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town prior to his move to Deepdale.

Also boasting a solid playing career to his name, Grayson enjoyed permanent stints with Leeds United, Leicester City, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool before eventually taking his first steps into management with the Seasiders.

North End’s Player of the Year last season, Tom Clarke is a firm fan favourite at Deepdale having scored a late winner against local-rivals Blackpool in only his second appearance for the club back in August 2013.

A former England youth international, the defender started his career at Huddersfield Town before reuniting with Simon Grayson at Preston after eight years with the Terriers, having won the League One play-offs with the club in 2012.

Named Lilywhites captain, initially sharing duties with John Welsh, the 28-year-old helped North End reach the play-off semi-finals in his first season at the club before going one better and winning promotion the following year.

Capable either in the centre of defence or at full-back with Grayson switching between four and five-man defences during his time at the club, Clarke made 38 appearances for Preston last season as they secured a solid mid-table finish.

Boyhood Preston North End supporter Joe Garner is another Lilywhites fan favourite having fired home the goals that launched the club’s promotion bids in both 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Starting his career on the books of hometown club Blackburn Rovers, the forward joined Carlisle United in 2007 after a brief loan spell at Brunton Park, with his prolific efforts for the Cumbrians seeing him snapped up by Nottingham Forest after a solitary season. 

On the move to Watford in August 2011, the former England youth international signed for Preston in January 2013 via a successful loan stint back with Carlisle, but endured a slow start to life at Deepdale as he scored just one goal for the club that season.

Revitalised the following year, the 28-year-old scored 24 goals in all competitions, including an incredible effort against Rotherham United in the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-finals, as the Lilywhites narrowly missed out on promotion.

Firing another 27 the following year, finishing as the third tier’s leading goalscorer as a result, his strikes helped Preston clinch promotion as play-off winners.

North End captain on occasions, Garner was unable to replicate his past form in the Sky Bet Championship as he registered just six goals, but already off the mark in pre-season, will be looking to enjoy a more prolific campaign this time around.

LAST PRESTON NORTH END XI (v Morecambe, W 1-4)
Maxwell, Grimshaw, Huntington, Wright, Davies, Pringle, Pearson, Welsh, Robinson, Doyle, Hugill 
Subs: Hudson, Smith, Clarke, Spurr, Browne, Humphrey

Liam Trotter’s first half opener was cancelled out by Jordan Hugill on the hour-mark the last time Wanderers hosted Preston back in March, with Eoin Doyle going on to net a late winner for the Lilywhites, diverting Marnick Vermijl’s effort past Paul Rachubka.

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