PNE’s Kila so deadly from a yard!

Neil Kilkenny
Neil Kilkenny
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Neil Kilkenny has never been a prolific scorer, so last weekend’s rapid-fire goal which capped Preston North End’s win over Gillingham was a most welcome one.

It was only the 22nd time in which the midfielder had found the net in a 344-game career.

He would be hard pressed to recall one which was scored so soon after entering the action, or from so close.

The Australian had been on the pitch little more than 60 seconds as a substitute when he tapped home a rebound from a yard.

As the old saying goes, they all count, and it has given him the appetite for more goals.

Kilkenny said: “I don’t think I have scored a quicker goal than that before.

“Normally I wouldn’t go that far into the box – I tend to hold my position.

“So maybe I should take some more risks like that and get in closer.

“Joe Garner did well for the goal, getting across his man and flicking it goalwards.

“The Gillingham keeper made a good save to be fair and fortunately I was there to tap it in when the ball fell to my feet.

“My main job is to be on the edge of the box and if the ball comes out to me, I try and switch play to create a chance.

“It is always nice to score and hopefully a few more chances will continue to fall my way.”

The win over Gillingham was North End’s fifth in a row at Deepdale in what has been a pretty strong finish to the campaign.

Tomorrow they are on their travels, making the short trip down the M6 to tackle Crewe at Gresty Road (3pm).

It is the final game of the regular season, and victory in Cheshire would ensure third place and a play-off semi-final clash with Peterborough.

A draw or defeat would see them waiting on Leyton Orient and Rotherham’s results to determine where they finish and who they play in the semi-finals.

With Crewe in need of points to stay above the drop zone, it has the hallmarks of a decent encounter.

Said Kilkenny: “Hopefully we still have four more games to play and hopefully we can win them all. We will approach this game in the same way we have done all others this season.

“Our aim is to win and if we do that at Crewe we will finish in third place.

“Maybe at the start of the season not many people thought we would be capable of that.

“But when I joined the club in November promotion was talked about as being the aim, in whatever way possible.

“Obviously the play-offs it is and we will go into them in good heart.

“If we could win at Crewe that would see us take more momentum into the play-offs.

“We have been building that up and have enjoyed the last two home games, playing with a freedom and scoring a few goals too.

“Crewe are fighting for their lives and we are fighting for third place, so it should be a good game.

“I haven’t seen a lot of Crewe recently but they have traditionally liked to pass the ball and play that way.

“We will play our normal game and hopefully that can see us win the game.”

Kilkenny, 28, is no stranger to the play-offs, having twice experienced them with Leeds.

Admittedly, things did not go his way in them but things turned out well in the end as the Elland Road outfit clinched automatic promotion under Simon Grayson in 2010.

“The play-offs are big games obviously – everyone knows what is riding on them,” said Kilkenny.

“In my first season at Leeds we got to the final. We had lost the first leg of the semi-final at home to Carlisle but then scored twice away to go through.

“We lost in the final which was heartbreaking.

“The next season, Leeds were beaten in the semi-finals, then the year after they got promoted automatically.”

Kilkenny’s time at Leeds gave way to an unhappy spell with Bristol City.

It was the Robins from whom North End signed him on loan in November.

And six weeks later in the January transfer window, Kilkenny made the move permanent, signing a deal until the end of the season with the scope for a longer stay.

He thinks that PNE’s style of play has suited him far better than that of Bristol City.

“People will say I have got a new lease of life,” said Kilkenny.

“How I see it is that I have been given the opportunity of playing in the team which has helped me promote the way I want to play.

“The style of play here suits me more than it did where I was before.

“In the first 20 or so games here, I played really well.

“Maybe in a couple of recent games my performance has dropped off a little bit. That might have been due to having had a long run of games quite close together having not played much in the two or three months prior to that.

“Hopefully I will get my chance in the team again and doing well after coming on as a substitute last week will have done me good.”