PNE keeper welcomes quick turn-about

Declan Rudd played his 50th game of the current campaign at Griffin Park on Good Friday
Declan Rudd played his 50th game of the current campaign at Griffin Park on Good Friday
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Declan Rudd is relieved that Preston North End have only had a 72-hour wait between games as they look to put Friday’s defeat at Brentford behind them.

Part two of the Easter double-header sees North End face Shrewsbury at Deepdale on Monday (3pm).

Uppermost in their minds will be bouncing back from the 1-0 loss at Griffin Park with a victory and much improved display.

Lilywhites keeper Rudd admitted that standards dipped in London on Good Friday.

Although the margin of defeat was narrow, with just a controversial 
first-half penalty beating Rudd, the overall performance was poor.

The feeling in the North End dressing room is that the Bees could have been made to work so much harder for the win which clinched them promotion to the Championship.

Rudd said: “I’m glad that we don’t have to think about Friday’s defeat all week.

“It is important to get back out there and get our momentum going again.

“We were disappointed with what happened against Brentford – we should have been a lot better than that.

“Losing to a penalty was frustrating too. The referee saw something which we didn’t and that cost us.

“Although we didn’t play well, Brentford didn’t create too many chances either.

“Ultimately the only way that they broke through us was with the penalty.”

The Good Friday defeat saw PNE’s faint hopes of a top-two place disappear.

Automatic promotion promotion had been a long shot for a few weeks.

But had they won at Brentford, it would have squeezed the points gap and made for an interesting last fortnight of the season.

As it was, Rudd and his Preston team-mates had to walk through celebrating Bees supporters on the pitch to reach the dressing room.

Said Rudd: “It was hard to take, gut-wrenching really.

“We didn’t do enough to get a result, didn’t turn up on a big occasion.

“On the day, Brentford were the better team and they have taken six points off us this season.

“You look at the table and have to say that they deserve to go up, and congratulations to them.

“We have to turn Friday’s defeat into a positive if we can, remember what happened and let that drive us on for the rest of the season.

“As a team we haven’t let ourselves down too many times this season – you could probably count on one hand the times we haven’t turned up – so when it does happen, it is hard to take.

“We wanted to finish in the top two and we’re gutted that we haven’t done that.

“Now we have some big games coming up, three in the league and hopefully three more in the play-offs.

“After what happened on Friday, it would be lovely to be able to go back to London in the play-off final and give our supporters what they deserve.

“There were more than 1,600 of them at Brentford, which is a great turn out.

“A lot of our away matches have been pretty much 
sold out, which is credit to the fans. We couldn’t repay their faith at Brentford but we will be aiming to do that in the play-offs.

“We will be well prepared for the play-offs, and the big thing is to take momentum into it.

“That is the word which is always being drummed into us by the manager because momentum can prove to be so important.

“The manager has been in the play-offs before and knows what is required.

“Starting with today’s game against Shrewsbury, hopefully we can put together a run of wins and go into the play-offs confident.”

The fortunes of North End’s two Easter opponents could not be more different.

While Brentford clinched an upward route out of League One, the Shrews could well be leaving in the other direction come 5pm tonight.

They come to Preston five points adrift of safety with three games to play.

Should the Shropshire outfit lose at Deepdale and a couple of other results go against them, then the jaws of League Two beckon. Shrews manager Michael Jackson was a big favourite as a player at North End but such sentiment will have to be put on one side.

Rudd, who made his 50th appearance of the season on Friday, said: “Shrewsbury are going to be battling for their lives. They are fighting at the wrong end of the table and need points to stay up.

“So it will be a tough game, simple as that.

“As a team we have bounced back well this season after games in which we have been beaten.

“We must do that again today and get back to winning ways.”

Rudd’s form has been a huge plus point for North End this season.

The 23-year-old is an 
ever-present in league action, with the only games not to feature him between the sticks being August’s Capital One Cup tie at Burnley and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Oldham in October.

Rudd is of course coming towards the end of his season-long loan from Norwich City, a deal which was signed on the back of a successful three-month stay last term.

Whether he returns 
a third time will depend on how the next few weeks pan out at both North End and Norwich.

Promotion via the play-offs would certainly strengthen PNE’s hand in any bid.

Much could depend too on which league Norwich are playing in next season, as theya battle to stay in the Premier League.

Said Rudd: “My focus goes no further than this Monday’s game.”