Royle relishing play-off scramble

IT may be a manager's job to accentuate the positive but Blues boss Joe Royle had no problem is handing out praise after seeing his side do a professional job on pertinacious Preston.

IT may be a manager's job to accentuate the positive but Blues boss Joe Royle had no problem is handing out praise after seeing his side do a professional job on pertinacious Preston, writes Derek Davis.

The Lilywhites set their stall out to keep Town at bay but the Blues persisted until they finally cracked the visitors.

Royle said: "Preston are a decent team who came here to contain us. They had three big central defenders and were hard to break down.

"It was not maybe the most glamorous or exciting display, and the first half was a bit of a stalemate but in terms of a professional performance, it's the best we have been for a while."


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While it was a good all-round team effort, Royle was still happy to pick out individuals. He said: "Tommy Miller was outstanding, Santos was terrific, while Ian Westlake is in a good run of goals."

There was delight too for Kelvin Davis, who has deserved a clean sheet for some time.

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He didn't have much to do but when called upon to deny Richard Cresswell he did so with style. Royle said: "It was an outstanding save at a vital time for us. I didn't realise at first how good a save it was but he saw it really late and got down very quickly."

It is also the manager's job to put a consoling arm around a player sometimes and poor Pablo Counago is in need of some loving.

Royle said: "I felt sorry for Pablo but nothing was going right for him up front, so I brought on Richard Naylor, who provided more energy and aggression and it turned the game."

If Town players could guarantee a win, and a clean sheet, after every sunshine break, they would be off to sunny Spain every week – despite the doom-mongers.

Royle beamed: "The sunshine did our defending a bit of good but it's hard to quantify."

The win keeps Town firmly on course for at least a play-off place and Royle has leaders, and next week's opponents, Norwich City plus West Brom firmly in his sights.

He said: "We are still right in there in the promotion race.

"There is a terrific scramble going on for play-off places and it's going to be very close but we are looking upwards and not behind us." The game was not without controversy but what is good for one is good for another and while Royle has enormous respect for the former Scotland manager Craig Brown he had little truck with the Preston boss's claims for a penalty.

Royle added: "It was a case of two managers shouting for a penalty. Craig wanted one for handball while I wanted one for a push.

"Their lad pushed Georges before the ball hit his hand and so my take on the incident is that it could easily have been a penalty to us."

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