Huntington: Don’t expect backheels every week

Paul Huntington has been impressed with how the supporters have backed PNE this season
Paul Huntington has been impressed with how the supporters have backed PNE this season
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Preston North End may be playing with a new-found flair but Paul Huntington says fans should not expect fancy footwork from him every week.

Tom Barkhuizen grabbed the headlines as North End swept aside Reading last time out with a dazzling attacking display, resulting in a 3-0 win.

One of the highlights for many was the sight of Huntington backheeling the ball down the line for Daryl Horgan in the first half, the moment summing up a dominant Deepdale victory.

“I don’t know what I was doing really,” said the 29-year-old.

“I was in the box and kind of ended up on the left wing. The guy was right up my backside and I’d seen Daryl.

“It was just one of those things. It was instinct.

“I don’t think you’ll be seeing that any more to be honest.

“The manager’s had a laugh and a joke about it in training. I think I’ll just stay back in future and let the flair players do their thing.

“It’s normal for Geads (Aiden McGeady) or Daryl (Horgan).

“I’ll keep it in the locker and won’t bring it out too often.”

This season has been one where PNE have developed from a side more known for being hard to beat into one that can get fans of the edge of their seats going forwards.

With a decent vantage point at the heart of the defence, Huntington has been impressed with what he’s seen.

“It’s great to have those sorts of threats in the attacking areas,” he said.

“Last year having just come up we were basing foundations on being solid and hard to beat.

“There was a maybe a bit more emphasis on that.

“But as this season has progressed we’ve got some great attacking players and you want to use them and hopefully we can do that between now and the end of the season.”

With McGeady having won the Championship’s player of the month award for February, it is Barkhuizen who has shone in March with four goals in his first three Lilywhites starts.

Against Reading, as well as netting twice, the former Morecambe man also sprinted almost the full length of the field in the run-up to Horgan’s goal.

“It’s great for Tom, I’m really pleased for him,” said Huntington.

“He’s got electrifying pace. He was a real handful on Saturday and when games open up it suits the likes of Tom.

“Credit to him, he’s been patient. He signed and then had to wait until he could play and he’s done himself proud.”

It was a great all-round team display against the Royals though, with PNE’s back four, Huntington playing alongside Andy Boyle in the heart of the defence, also impressing.

“It was a really good team performance against a good footballing team,” said the former Newcastle and Leeds man.

“I thought we got stronger as the game went on and were a real threat going forwards.

“In the first 40 minutes they had a lot of the ball as well and we had a bit of 
defending to do.

“You know in this league you’re going to have to do that against all sides but particularly one that’s been up in the top-six 
positions all season.

“I was really pleased with the clean sheet and that’s what we want as a team and as a defence.”

It was a win that saw the Lilywhites close the gap on a play-off rival, North End now six points shy of the top six.

Huntington is trying not to pay too much attention to the table though, instead focusing on the task in hand as Preston head to Ewood Park for a Lancashire derby with Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

“In the past we’ve maybe looked at the table but we’ve just got to try and win the next game,” he said.

“It’s just pretty straightforward.

“We’ve got to take as many points as we can and build some momentum.

“Everyone wants to talk about it but it’s just another game of football.

“We’ll approach it in the same way we have done all the others.”

Rovers may be only one point above the bottom three but Simon Grayson’s side face a team on the up under Tony Mowbray. 
Rovers have not lost in their last six and are unbeaten since their new head coach replaced Owen Coyle but PNE are set to be backed by more than 5,500 travelling fans.

“We’re under no illusions, it will be a tough game,” said Huntington.

“We know they’ll be right up for it but so will we.

“We did quite well against local rivals away last season and we’re looking to build on the win over Reading.

“The support will be superb as well, like it has all the time I’ve been here.

“We appreciate it and it goes a long way to helping us when we’re out there.

“We’ve had a good week’s training and hopefully we can take that good home form away.”

An improvement in results on the road will be key if Preston are to break into the top six, North End not having won away from Deepdale since the 1-0 triumph at Burton Albion in the first game of 2017.

It is in stark contrast to their home form, Grayson’s men winning their last four. “We got a good point at Derby last week and Callum Robinson had a goal ruled out for offside that was onside,” said Huntington.

“Those are the fine margins we’re dealing with.

“We’ll carry on and it’s just football – you get spells like that.

“We know it’s going to be another tough game at the weekend but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”

Having emerged as a key figure in the second half of the season, Huntington made it 350 career appearances against Reading on Saturday.

“A couple of people mentioned it to me,” he said.

“Hopefully there are many more to come.

“Wembley has got to be the main highlight for me and a lot of the players.

“I remember being sat there at half-time 3-0 up and it was a great feeling.

“Hopefully we can keep improving.

“We’ve got nine games and we’re just trying to get as many points as we can.”