‘New’ skipper rises to PNE challenge

Gallagher (centre) with Johnson and Hugill

Gallagher (centre) with Johnson and Hugill

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Paul Gallagher admitted that being handed the Preston North End captaincy for the victory at Charlton Athletic was a big surprise to him.

With club skipper Tom Clarke sidelined by a shoulder injury and his deputy John Welsh on the bench, it was Gallagher who wore the armband in the 3-0 win at The Valley.

The 31-year-old led by example, putting North End in front with a free-kick inside the first two minutes.

He doubled the lead nine minutes before half-time with a stunning finish from the side of the box, with Daniel Johnson netting the third goal after the interval.

Gallagher said: “I found out just before the game that I would be captain, the manager said, ‘Come on, you are coming in to do the team sheets with the referee’.

“It is something I wanted to do, lead by example, a bit of a voice in the changing room, plus I was probably the oldest man by 10 years in the team!

“I try and play like that every week, never mind having the responsibility of being captain.

“The only time I’ve been captain before was when we played Blackburn’s Under-21s in a friendly the other week and won 4-0.

“Being an experienced player, you have to drag some of the younger lads around and that worked.”

It was only Gallagher’s second game back after a calf injury which kept him out of all of September’s games.

Given a deeper midfield role, he revelled in the space and much of Preston’s play went through him.

His goals pleased him, the pair adding to the winner he scored at MK Dons in August.

“It was a great performance from everyone, right down to the subs who came on,” said Gallagher.

“Everyone knew we needed to get three points.

“We knew that if we got the first goal, the crowd might get on Charlton’s backs, with them being down there with us.

“The first goal settled us down and we kicked on from there.

“For the second, Adam Reach was giving me a bit of stick, saying I should have passed through.

“But I made my mind up early that I was going to hit it.

“I got my knee over the ball, it was good technique and a good connection.

“It was nice just to get the goal and a 2-0 lead at the time.

“We fully deserved the lead at half-time and we went on to be in control all of the game.

“It was a good game to play in and I’m sure the fans who travelled down, enjoyed it.

“Everyone worked hard for each other. When we lost the ball we won it back quickly.

“We had been working hard in training to keep the ball better – in this division you will get a bit of time on the ball so it is all about how you use it.”

Gallagher’s double – and a sixth goal of the season for Johnson – continued the theme of PNE’s midfield scoring this term.

They are still waiting for the strikers to get off the mark in the league but Gallagher says that is not for a want of trying.

“I’m trying my best to get the strikers to score,” he said.

“Jordan Hugill deserves a goal for the way he worked and held the ball up. We had Eoin Doyle playing between the lines, he is a clever footballer. It doesn’t matter who scores.”