PNE defender worried by slow starts

Tom Clarke beats Bradford striker Billy Clarke to the ball at Deepdale

Tom Clarke beats Bradford striker Billy Clarke to the ball at Deepdale

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Skipper Tom Clarke says that Preston must stop putting themselves in a position where they have to play a game of catch-up.

The home defeat to Bradford on Saturday was the third time in the last six games that they had trailed at half-time after a poor first-half performance.

Against the Bantams they went in 1-0 down after Rory McArdle was left unmarked to score a far-post header from an Andy Halliday corner.

A much improved second-half display led to North End finally breaking the visitors down in the 85th minute when Joe Garner equalised.

Straight from the re-start – and without a Preston player touching the ball – Bradford went up the other end and scored their winner through Mark Yeates.

Defeat saw PNE slip a place to third in the League One table and next up is the visit to Ashton Gate to take on leaders Bristol City.

Clarke said: “To say we were gutted to lose the game was an understatement – it was so frustrating after we had got ourselves back in it.

“The first-half display was not acceptable and we gave ourselves so much to do.

“It is difficult to explain what happened in that first 45 minutes.

“We had a good week on the training pitch leading up to the game but for whatever reason we just did not play well enough.

“It has happened before and that is something we need to address quickly.

“Against Fleetwood when we went 2-0 down we got away with it and came back strongly in the second half to win.

“But conceding twice in the first half at Rochdale led to us getting beaten and now, against Bradford, a poor first half gave us a lot to do.

“We were a lot better in the second half, we bossed it and they looked dead on their feet when Joe scored the equaliser.

“So it was disappointing that they went up and scored straight away. It was difficult to take and I can understand why the fans were frustrated.”

The Bradford defeat was North End’s third in a row in the league and came on the back of seven successive wins.

Such a contrast in form is something of a puzzle to 26-year-old Clarke.

The defender, who had a short loan spell at Bradford earlier in his career, said: “It is a difficult one to understand.

“We got ourselves on a good run of wins and now we have hit a bit of a tough patch.

“As I said, we are not doing ourselves any favours with the starts we have been making.

“Whenever we have lost a game in the past here we have normally come back and won the next one.

“In the league that has not happened this time and it is something that we need to get back to doing.

“It is frustrating that we have slipped out of the top two and we now have a tough game at Bristol City, where we need to put things right.”

Bradford manager Phil Parkinson, a PNE fans in his youth, was understandably delighted with his side’s win.

He said: “We expected them to throw everything at us in the second half, which they did – they’re a very good team with a proud record here at Preston.

“We had a few chances on the break ourselves where we could have extended the lead but we couldn’t get that second goal.

“With five minutes to go, they got the equaliser but an absolute moment of pure quality from Yeatesy has won us the game.”

EIGHT-PAGE ‘THE GENTRY’ PULLOUT IN MONDAY’S EVENING POST