A hazy night for PNE star Gally

Paul Gallagher

Paul Gallagher

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Paul Gallagher has only a hazy recollection of parts of Preston North End’s play-off first-leg win at Chesterfield on Thursday.

The second half was less than three minutes old when an elbow in the face left him poleaxed on the turf.

Referee Mark Haywood deemed Jimmy Ryan’s swing as worthy of only a yellow card and he dished out the same punishment to Gallagher for being aggressive in the first place when tussling for possession.

Quite where the justice was there, you will have to work out for yourselves.

On a demanding evening for Gallagher, he was also grabbed around the throat by Spirietes midfielder Gary Roberts in a first-half incident.

Little wonder, his voice was on the hoarse side as he reflected on events following Friday’s training session.

“I left my Adam’s apple out on the pitch,” Gallagher said with a rueful smile.

“That was in the first half when I got grabbed by the throat by one of their lads.

“As for the one in the second half, I don’t like to see fellow professionals get sent-off but clear as daylight it was an elbow.

“My job in midfield was to put people under pressure and I felt that I was doing that.

“The lad has retaliated with the elbow – it was blatant.

“I think the referee lost the game for a little while.

“If he had nipped things in the bud in the first half, the game would probably have settled down.

“At times, Chesterfield’s tactics seemed to be to try and rough us up a bit.

“Maybe they thought we had got a few lose screws in our team but I thought we handled it well.

“When I got elbowed, I didn’t know I was for the next 10 to 15 minutes – I didn’t know I was in Chesterfield!

“The referee told me I had gone in aggressively in that incident and that was why I got the yellow card.

“But the ball was there to be kicked at and I was within my rights to go for it.

“It is gone now, we won the first leg and we have to get ourselves ready for Sunday’s return at Deepdale.”

Preston’s 1-0 win in North Derbyshire came courtesy of a coolly chipped finish from Jermaine Beckford in the sixth minute.

That was during an early burst from Simon Grayson in which they could well have added to their lead.

But it was Chesterfield who went on to boss the game, meaning plenty of defensive work for PNE.

They saw out the 90 minutes to win away in the play-offs for the first time, giving them the slight advantage going into the second leg in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday lunchtime.

Gallagher said: “It could be a massive advantage.

“People talk a lot about our play-off record so it was nice to play away first and get a good result.

“We knew it would be a difficult game because Chesterfield are a good footballing team.

“At times we had to surrender possession and then soak some pressure up.

“Chesterfield are a side who rotate and interchange their players.

“That can be difficult to deal with but everyone stood up like a man, there were bodies thrown on the line and to come away with a 1-0 win was a big result.

“In the first 20-25 minutes, it was us on the front foot, nicking the ball high up the pitch.

“Chesterfield played a few stray passes and put things out for throw-ins, for a while I thought we had them on the ropes a bit.

“Fair play to them, they grew into the game.

“We seemed to sit back a little bit so we could soak things up.

“I thought that we always looked like we could nick another goal on the break.

“Hopefully we can come back to Deepdale on Sunday with a good backing and see the job through.”

The scheduling of this year’s play-offs has meant there was little time for Preston to dwell on missing out on automatic promotion.

That only happened last Sunday at Colchester and four nights later, Grayson’s men were heading to the Proact Stadium for the first leg.

Gallagher said: “It has been a tough few days after losing on the final day and dropping into the play-offs.

“I think Thursday’s win shows that we bounced back well from it.

“A lot of people might have been thinking were we up for it because of what happened at Colchester.

“It shows that we have a good team spirit, to score after just six minutes was a great response.

“I just hope on Sunday we can do it again and for once it is our supporters running on the pitch to celebrate.

“It’s five times in the last two seasons they we have ended up in the middle of other fans’ pitch invasions.

“Chesterfield come here needing to score and they won’t change how they play.

“They are not a side to go route one, they play from a particular shape and don’t really have an out-and-out striker – they have the three lads interchanging.

“We go into the game with confidence from Thursday’s win and the fact that our home record is very good.

“Don’t get me wrong, we will not be over-confident.

“If we start the game in the manner we have some of the others lately, we will give ourselves every chance.

“We have got the players to hurt teams.

“You saw how well and calmly Jermaine took his goal at their place.

“It was a fantastic finish and hopefully him and Joe Garner can be among the goals again on Sunday.”