BRINK AFTER JOE’S TREBLE
Glorious Garner destroys Swindon
PRESTON manager Simon Grayson lavished praise on hat-trick hero Joe Garner as his side go into the final weekend looking to seal promotion.
Garner struck twice before the break and wrapped up the win as Preston made it 18 games unbeaten.
In doing so, League One’s top scorer took his individual tally to 25 goals.
Swindon’s automatic promotion hopes have now ended while victory for MK Dons means Preston need to win at Colchester next weekend to be sure of promotion.
Grayson says his team remain focused on finishing the job and believes League One Player of the Year Garner deserves everything he gets.
“We’ve said for the last three or four games now that our destiny is in our own hands,” Grayson said.
“It now boils down to a one-game situation next weekend but what we’ve done is testament to the players.
“At this stage of the season to be 18 games unbeaten, giving ourselves a chance of promotion, is fantastic and we are focused and determined to do that.
“Joe deserves everything he gets but he will acknowledge those he is playing alongside.
“It’s a fantastic individual per- formance from Joe but obviously the team ethic is the most important thing. Next weekend we want another clean sheet and a couple of goals from somebody and we’ve done our job. “Full credit to MK Dons. To have won the games they have speaks volumes of them as a club.
“Let’s just hope they’re one point short come next weekend.”
Deepdale erupted in the second minute when Garner fired Preston in front. Paul Gallagher swept the ball forward from the right and Garner looped the ball over Tyrell Belford. He came within inches of doubling the lead after 23 minutes but his strike from 20 yards was just wide.
Swindon survived huge penalty shouts when Garner went down under the challenge of Stephens at the far post.
Preston piled on the pressure and Sam Ricketts had to deny Garner a tap-in at the far post, before Beckford had a goalbound strike cleared away from three yards.
In first-half stoppage time, the pressure told and Garner made it 20, nodding home Gallagher’s free-kick from eight yards.
Garner missed a great chance to make it 3-0 but headed wide from six yards after 50 minutes following superb play down the right by Chris Humphrey.
But he didn’t miss a minute later when Jermaine Beckford’s shot cannoned back off the bar and Garner was on hand to nod into the empty net and wrap up the three points.
Swindon made a number of changes and fielded a young side, but manager Mark Cooper defended his team selection, insisting they were doing everything to prepare for the play-offs.
“We desperately want the playoffs to come round, but we have to play these games,” Cooper said.
“We played some young boys who have come through our system and we think a lot of them.
“We conceded an early goal, but then I thought we did really well in the first half and dominated the possession.
“It is about us and how we want to prepare for the play-offs, making sure that the team which plays in the first leg is prepared physically and mentally.
“The fans have seen the next generation of players for Swindon Town. I’m proud to be their manager today. They acquitted themselves well in this cauldron.
“We’re trying to do what is best for Swindon and that is to make sure that the team that plays on May 7 is fresh and ready to go.”
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STAR MAN JOE GARNE