SIMON GRAYSON surveyed a third Huddersfield Town loss on the spin and groaned: “In the first half we made Preston look ordinary, in the second, we made them look like Real Madrid.”
The 1-0 defeat at Deepdale coupled with second-placed Sheffield United’s 3-1 home win over Leyton Orient means claiming the other automatic promotion berth alongside Charlton, who clinched Championship football next season with their 1-0 win at Carlisle, is now mathematically impossible.
With three games remaining, starting at home to Scunthorpe on Saturday, Town, who have dropped to fifth, still need three points to be sure of making the League I play-offs.
And the highest they can now finish is fourth, which would ensure home advantage in the second leg of a play-off semi-final.
“The first priority is to get that win,” said Grayson.
“We’ll be on the training ground this morning working as hard as we can to make sure we’re ready for Saturday.”
Grayson, who had keeper Alex Smithies ruled out by a lacerated ear, Alan Lee sidelined by a knee problem and Tom Clarke and Lee Novak both nursing knocks, made three changes to his starting side in the wake of the 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth.
Keeper Ian Bennett, right-back Jack Hunt and winger Gary Roberts were the men to come into a 4-3-3 system.
“We haven’t been retaining the ball as well as we’d like to,” he explained.
“We wanted to get the extra man in midfield and in the first half, I thought we passed the ball well and had some half-decent opportunities to score.
“But in the second half, we switched off at a corner and let them score (Chris Robertson netted in the 55th minute) and when we do that, the players seem to start making more bad decisions than good ones. We looked too open, too vulnerable and too naive, and we lacked leadership.
“I’m saying the same things after each game and the players have to learn and have to be stronger mentally.”