‘Operation Stop Wes Hoolahan’ pays off for Preston chief Simon Grayson

Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan came in for close attention from Preston's Ben Pearson. Picture

Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan came in for close attention from Preston's Ben Pearson. Picture by Andy Kearns/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Andy Kearns/Focus Images Limited

Stopping Wes Hoolahan was a key part of his old Blackpool boss Simon Grayson's Carrow Road masterplan in Preston's 1-0 Championship win.

Hoolahan was instrumental in the Tangerines' League One play-off success in 2007 under Grayson's guidance and the astute Lilywhites' boss made it his mission to thwart the Republic of Ireland international.

'We had played 4-4-2 in midweek to beat Huddersfield but we felt here we had to play Ben Pearson deeper so he could be around Wes Hoolahan, knowing what Hoolahan is capable of doing,' he said. 'That made us more solid with the one up front but we were still a threat going forward with Jordan Hugill having some good opportunities. If you come to places like Norwich you have to make sure you give everything. You have to make sure you keep your shape and discipline of the team, your goalkeeper makes saves, your defenders make blocks, ultimately we did all of those things and played really well. Every one of those players did what they needed to do and we're delighted to win at a difficult place. We came here against a very strong team – a fantastic football club – and the team did their job.'

Grayson felt his side could have earned a bigger margin of victory.

'We had some good chances especially in the first-half and their goalkeeper made some very good saves,' he said. 'You're expecting pressure from them because of the players they've got and what they expect the result to be, but ultimately it's a fantastic achievement to get a result like this.

'We were a bit disappointed at half-time. We gave the ball away too quickly and didn't take care of the ball enough but we still had opportunities to carry a threat.

'We worked hard in the middle and in the wide areas to stop them playing; our centre backs played really well against a strong centre forward. I am trilled to bits with the players.'