PNE skipper wants more points on Preston front

Preston skipper Tom Clarke is fully fit after a shoulder injury
Preston skipper Tom Clarke is fully fit after a shoulder injury
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Tom Clarke is targeting better results for Preston North End at Deepdale to follow up their good form on the road.

The Lilywhites have taken eight points at home in contrast to 13 away but have the chance to restore some balance in the coming days.

They host Reading this weekend and then Birmingham on Tuesday, these being two chances to perform well in front of the Preston faithful.

PNE are back on home soil after victory at Burnley last Saturday and a 1-1 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage the week before.

“Replicating the away form is something we are looking to do in front of the home fans,” said skipper Clarke.

“We have travelled well and played well in away games and now we need to do similar at Deepdale.

“That starts on Saturday in a tough game against Reading.

“I don’t quite know why the results haven’t been as strong at home.

“But we are coming up against better players than we were in the division below and teams are coming here with different game plans.

“I think we have adapted quite well and just need to add a few more points to our performances.”

Clarke is hoping that conditions will be a little calmer for the visit of the Royals than they were at Burnley last week.

The wind and rain swirled around Turf Moor, North End adapting to it well as they brought three points back down the M65.

Said Clarke: “We knew it was going to be a difficult game because Burnley are going well in the league.

“We needed a win and thankfully produced a performance which got one.

“The first 20 minutes were difficult but we got into the game and caught Burnley on the break pretty well.

“Everyone knew their jobs and we played well.

“With the conditions being as they were, we had decided to turn them round if I won the toss.

“I did win it and we changed ends, hoping that we would have the wind in the second half.

“But in the second half it was swirling around in every direction so sometimes we were still playing into the wind. We dealt with that well and got the result we wanted.

“Jordan Pickford’s kicking was unbelievable, bearing in mind the wind and conditions.

“I suppose the weather just added to the excitement of a derby game.

“The pitch was a bit wet on top which helped the tackles fly in and it was an exciting game to be involved in.

“It was nice from a personal point of view to play a part in one of the goals.

“I put in a tackle in the centre circle and fortunately the ball broke to Will Keane, who went upfield to score.”

North End had the backing of 2,400 supporters at Burnley, while 1,933 travelled to London for the Fulham clash.

Clarke said: “The away support has been excellent all season and it was nice to give them something to cheer about.

“Their support is always very much appreciated – it is great when you come on to the pitch and see so many people there, making a lot of noise.”

Clarke is fully up and running after a shoulder injury, one which forced him to miss five games in October and early November.

He returned to action as a substitute against Blackburn last month and started the Burnley and Fulham matches.

Alongside Clarke in a three-man defence have been Paul Huntington and Greg Cunningham.

They will have a strong claim to start against Reading, despite the return to the squad of Bailey Wright after suspension.

“Said Clarke: “We have strong competition because the gaffer has brought in some good players.

“We have a number of defenders who are fit and raring to go in the battle for the shirt.

“The way we train every day means anyone is ready to step into the side if needed – all the lads know how each other play and what is expected.

“My shoulder is fine now, it was difficult and frustrating being out injured and missing five games.

“I didn’t need surgery though, which would have kept me out for much longer.

“The recovery was quite a quick one and it feels good to be 
back.”

As has been the way over the last few games, Reading’s visit is one PNE have been preparing for, not quite knowing who will be in the opposition technical area.

QPR, Blackburn and Fulham all went for a change of manager shortly before playing North End.

The axe fell on Steve Clarke at Reading last Friday, with the Royals conducting their search for a successor in recent days.

However, the Preston captain says it is not something the squad have concerned themselves with too much. “It honestly doesn’t affect our preparations,” said Clarke. “We concentrate on what we need to do on the pitch, make sure we do our business.

“This has happened a few times before recent matches and if a team decides to change their manager or coach, there is nothing we can do about it.

“We will prepare how we are going to play and be aware of what Reading like to play.”