Deepdale can have ‘X’ factor for PNE

Scott Laird says the Preston fans have a big part to play
Scott Laird says the Preston fans have a big part to play
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Preston North End left-back Scott Laird believes that a ‘special’ Deepdale atmosphere against Rotherham can help give the Lilywhites the edge in the first leg of the play-offs.

Still fresh in his mind is last August’s cup victory over Blackpool which was watched by a season’s-best attendance of more than 17,000.

The vibe that night is one which Laird hopes can be recaptured for the visit of the Millers on Saturday teatime.

PNE’s home form is strong going into the semi-final – they have won their last five.

They have tailed off on their travels of late, something which will need addressing ahead of the second leg in a week’s time.

“We’ve been good at home recently, scoring a number of goals,” Laird told the Evening Post.

“What we need to cut out are the silly goals which we have conceded from our own mistakes.

“At home we have to be confident and attack, and with the crowd behind us that will really help.

“It would be great to have the atmosphere and roar which we had against Blackpool.

“The place was rocking that night and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“I first came to Deepdale as a first-year professional with Plymouth Argyle. That day I wasn’t in the squad so I sat behind the goal in the away end.

“I thought to myself back then, ‘What a club this is’ and since then I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to play for Preston North End.

“Deepdale is a very special place when it is rocking – it’s spectacular.

“We need to bring the good times back here and get it rocking on a regular basis.”

Laird, who has a play-off winners’ medal in his collection from his Stevenage days, is looking forward to the double header with Rotherham.

The sides shared two draws in the league, 0-0 in August at the New York Stadium and 3-3 in February’s Deepdale clash.

Said Laird: “Rotherham are a good team with a good manager who works them hard. They all know what each other is going to do in certain areas of the pitch and they work hard for each other.

“We work very hard too, and we will have to be at the top of our game. When everyone of us plays to their best, we are a force to be reckoned with.

“The play-offs are so much different to what happens during the season.

“Form goes out of the window, league positions count for nothing, it is all about two legs over 180 minutes.

“It is about who can handle it the most and use that to their advantage.”

Laird, who turns 26 on the day of the second leg, thinks he is hitting peak form as North End enter the play-offs.

He said: “I have played 41 games after coming back from my broken leg, so the gaffer has shown a lot of faith in me.

“In the earlier part of the season I was kidding myself as I plodded along, thinking I was back to my best.

“I was out eight-and-a-half months, and it has taken that same length of time for me to get back to where I was.

“Attacking and defending wise I feel better, and I have more energy.”