Kila at the heart of PNE’s winning run

Neil Kilkenny

Neil Kilkenny

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Neil Kilkenny’s work might not always be headline-grabbing but he has been the heartbeat of Preston North End’s winning run.

The Australian is a figure of consistency in the PNE midfield, going about his job with quiet efficiency and staying under the radar somewhat.

He has started all eight of the games which the Lilywhites have won in a row, and will be on the team-sheet for Saturday’s visit to Spotland to take on Rochdale.

During the winning sequence, Kilkenny has played a holding midfield role, dropping deep to collect possession and be the starting point of many attacks.

Not one to be in the limelight, it is a job which the 28-year-old does with the minimum of fuss.

Kilkenny said: “I’m happy with my form, the manager knows me well – knows what I do well and what I don’t do so well.

“He knows what I give the team, although I do feel sometimes that some people don’t see the work I do and the holes I cover.

“The main thing is that the manager is happy with what I do and that I keep doing that.

“If anyone asked me to describe myself and my role, I would say that I’m a ball-playing midfielder who keeps the game ticking over.

“I start attacks off and wins the ball, maybe not by tackling but by intercepting.

“After getting the ball I will supply the wingers who then get the crosses in for Joe Garner.

“Basically that is my job, to keep us ticking over.

“As a team we are doing well at the moment, the front four have been brilliant with scoring goals and creating chances.

“The back line and Jamie Jones are playing well and things are knitting together nicely.”

North End’s winning run began on the back of the 3-3 draw with Chesterfield in which they surrendered a 3-0 lead.

Kilkenny believes a tweak of approach has got them heading in the right direction.

The 28-year-old said: “Since the Chesterfield game we have passed the ball a lot better than we did in the first part of the season.

“As a team we are passing the ball far better, not panicking in certain situations.

“When the crowd want the ball to go forward quicker, we have been brave and put in an extra pass or two to work it forward.

“That is where I think we have been better and long may that continue as the season goes on.”

It is getting on for a year since Kilkenny joined Preston.

He initially signed on loan from Bristol City last November and then made the move permanent in January.

In the summer, Kilkenny put pen to paper on a new two-year contract, PNE manager Simon Grayson keen to have him around for an extended stay.

“The last 12 months have been good,” he said.

“When I first came to the club the talk was about turning the draws into more wins and that is something we have done this season.

“I just want to repay the faith which the manager had in me.

“We were at Leeds together and he knew what I could do when he brought me here.

“I have a huge respect for him and the coaching staff, they have all been top-drawer for me.”

While delighted to be on this winning run, Kilkenny recognises that this is still relatively early days in terms of a promotion push.

But he is confident that North End can push on and build on the strong form.

Said Kilkenny: “Winning games breeds confidence and we are a confident team at the moment.

“We are 14 games into the season so we know that we need to keep on picking up points to take us to where we want to be.

“It is good that wins have been coming both home and away, we had a good away record last season.

“People are working hard for each other and what has been encouraging is that players have come into the team when we’ve had injuries and done very well.

“That has given the gaffer some extra selection choices which is very good for competition.

“We are in the middle of a tough schedule at the moment with lots of travelling. But we are able to cope with those demands because we have a good squad.

“At the moment we are in a run of long-distance away games which means a lot of travelling and some long days.

“The way to look at it is that after this sequence, a lot of the long trips for the season have gone and it will be the other teams who have to make the trip to our place later on.

“At least the Rochdale game does not involve much travelling, it is a bit of a derby game.

“It is a good one for the fans, some of who have travelled hundreds of miles lately.

“Gillingham was an awfully long way to go on a Tuesday night and it was made worse by the weather.

“We had a fantastic following at Leyton Orient on Tuesday and it was brilliant to send the fans home happy again.

“If we keep working hard as a team and stay together, hopefully there will be success at the end of the season.

“We played Rochdale in the cup a couple of months ago and I managed to get myself on the scoresheet which I don’t do very often.

“Rochdale are doing quite well in the league this season and it will be another tough game.”