Maxwell thinks PNE have things spot on for play-off push

Preston North End's Chris Maxwell

Preston North End's Chris Maxwell

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Even Albert Adomah’s spot kick sailing past him at Villa Park won’t dampen Chris Maxwell’s enjoyment of being the man to beat from 12 yards out.

Before Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa the 26-year-old had saved three penalties this season.

It is a duel that Maxwell relishes, having originally enhanced his reputation as a spot kick king at former club Fleetwood, including two saves in a shoot-out win over Sheffield United.

Since arriving at Deepdale the Welshmen has denied Aston Villa, Blackburn - Danny Graham ultimately scoring at the fourth attempt - and most recently Brighton.

“I think I’m one of those weirdos that actually likes penalty shoot-outs,” said the man who will be between the sticks against Ipswich at Deepdale on Saturday.

“It’s something I enjoy. I enjoy being in the spotlight as I’ve been told many a time.

Maxwell saves a penalty from Brighton & Hove Albion's Tomer Hemed

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Maxwell saves a penalty from Brighton & Hove Albion's Tomer Hemed .

“I like contributing to the team as well.

“Strikers like scoring goals, goalkeepers like making saves.

“As an individual it’s good when you’re in the game and contribute to the team’s performances but I can’t imagine if you ask the gaffer he’ll have the same response when it comes to penalties.

“I’m really pleased I’m doing my bit and long may it continue.”

Maxwell believes his penchant for penalty stops has been built up over several years.

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” he said.

“You have inklings as a goalkeeper and you’ve got to trust yourself.

“They’re the instincts that I’ve been building up since I was nine years old, every goalkeeper will tell you that.

“You’ve got to have a slice of luck in that as well and do everything you can to put the striker off.

“But I’m just hoping it’s going to stay at three saves and there won’t be any more penalties.”

There was plenty of controversy in the Villa game, Aiden McGeady appearing to win the ball cleanly from Adomah in the incident that led to the penalty.

Earlier in proceedings Maxwell had also collided with Gabriel Agbonlahor in the run up to the first goal.

“It’s one of those, it’s part and parcel of football,” said the PNE shot-stopper.

“Everyone’s talking about the second goal as well and it not being a penalty.

“You’ve got to look at the atmosphere that the man in the middle is making a decision in.

“At the same time I’ve seen some people say the first isn’t a foul and it’s gone.

“It’s something that I’ve got to try and learn from whether it’s a foul or not.”

Despite the coming together with Agbonlahor, the goalkeeper who came through the ranks at Wrexham thinks he’s more equipped than most for the rough and tumble that comes with succeeding in the Championship.

Maxwell has worked his way up the football pyramid cutting his teeth in the top-tier of non-league football and even spending time on loan with Connah’s Quay Nomads in the Welsh Premier Division.

“When it comes to the physicality, everyone talks about the physical nature of the Championship, I’m lucky enough to have played in the Conference,” he said.

“And I tell you what you get bashed about there being a goalkeeper as well.

“That’s something that I’m used to.

“I feel as though we’re one of the physically stronger teams in the league.

“We put ourselves about a bit and we’ve got good quality on the ball.

“We’re going about our business quietly and taking each game as it comes.”

Now Maxwell has more than one eye on completing that rise through the leagues at Deepdale.

Simon Grayson’s side sit 11th in the second tier just five points off the play-offs, one of a pack of clubs hoping to break into the top six in the closing months of the campaign.

“Things are looking up,” said Maxwell.

“We’re doing really well, we’ve had a good spell now of 20 or so games.

“The team are playing well, the results are going for us, we’re hard to beat and the games are entertaining.

“It’s looking really good at the moment.

“When you hear the lads talking in and around the place we’re not talking about the teams below us, we’re looking at where three points might put us in the table.”

Despite upsetting the odds more often that not results across the division week in, week out prove that PNE can take nothing for granted, something which Maxwell is acutely aware of.

“We’re not getting carried away with ourselves though,” he said.

“We got in this position by working hard, doing the right things, doing the basics well, listening to the manager and working hard off the field.

“The manager and the staff will certainly not let us take our foot off the gas or take things for granted.

“We’re demanding more from each other, each player is contributing to the organisation of the team and it’s working.

“I said when I came in that the players here are brilliant and well organised as was seen last season.

“All eyes are on Saturday and we’ll take it from there.”

This weekend’s clash arguably sees the onus more on North End than in recent weeks having matched Arsenal in defeat, beaten promotion favourites Brighton and come back to draw at Villa.

Ipswich have had an up and down campaign and sit 14th in the table, six points below PNE with manager Mick McCarthy under pressure.

“We went to Aston Villa and tried to win the game, we faced Brighton at home and tried to win the game and against Arsenal as well we tried to win the game,” said Maxwell.

“The type of mentality we have is that if we do our job, try and play well and to the best of our ability then we can beat anybody.

“We nearly beat Arsenal as a result and they’re one of the top 10 teams in Europe.

“We’ve got massive belief in ourselves and that stems from the graft we’ve put in.”