PNE Tom Clarke’s target is more goals

On the ball: Tom Clarke in action for Preston at Wolves last weekend

On the ball: Tom Clarke in action for Preston at Wolves last weekend

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While Tom Clarke’s trade as a defender is to prevent the opposition scoring, the Preston defender thinks he is due to find the net at the other end of the pitch.

It was of course THAT goal against Blackpool in August’s Capital One Cup tie which earned him cult status among the North End supporters.

The 87th-minute winner in only his second competitive PNE game is one of four he has netted in the club’s colours.

Clarke’s second goal came in that barmy 4-4 draw with tomorrow’s opponents Coventry City.

He then netted against Bradford in October, and in the 6-0 FA Cup win over Barnet.

Twelve games on from setting the ball rolling against Barnet, the 26-year-old says it is about time he got another.

Clarke said: “A few people have mentioned to me that I’m due a goal.

“I started off with a few earlier in the season but it has quietened down recently.

“In that crazy game against Coventry I managed to get one.

“You don’t play in many 4-4 draws and it was an eventful game to say the least.

“With being 4-3 up we should have won it, even though we didn’t play too well that day.

“We were disappointed to come away with just a point and hopefully things will work out better when we play Coventry tomorrow.”

Six months after his Bosman move from Huddersfield, Clarke feels totally at home with Preston.

Having spent all of his career with Town, he would have been forgiven a settling-in period at Deepdale.

But the welcome mat came straight out after the Blackpool game and he has not looked back since.

Banter was doing the rounds this week among North End fans that Clarke was not far behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or voting.

“I would have worn a better suit than Messi for the awards had that been the case,” said Clarke.

“Scoring in the Blackpool game did make settling in here a lot easier.

“It was a great night for the supporters and it was a good feeling scoring the winner. The aim now is to get out of this league and back into the Championship.

“That is what we are trying to build up towards.

“I was fortunate enough to get promotion out of this league with Huddersfield.

“There are many similarities between what Huddersfield did and what Preston are trying to do now.

“Huddersfield had a good squad when they went up and we have the same here.

“Everyone knows what their job is when they come into the Preston team.

“The gaffer brings in players with experience and drills them in training on what is needed on the pitch.

“It is a long season and everyone in the squad will get their chance at some point.”

After the disappointment of last week’s defeat at Wolves, which ended their nine-game unbeaten run, the Lilywhites bounced back with Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over Ipswich in the FA Cup.

Clarke said it was important that the Molineux reverse was not allowed to fester for long.

The defender said: “Wolves was disappointing for us, it was a big game and a lot of fans travelled.

“We didn’t give a good account of ourselves and Wolves were very good on the day.

“There was the opportunity for us to go above them had we won – but we didn’t take it. I thought that we bounced back well against Ipswich and got a good result.

“When you lose a game it is about how quickly you can hit back – you don’t want another defeat in quick succession.

“We did well in the Ipswich game, got the result and set up the tie at Nottingham Forest.

“Joe Garner was on fire in the game. When he came on as substitute you could see that it picked everyone up.

“He is full of confidence at the moment and it always looks like he has got a goal in him.

“In training and in games his work-rate is unbelievable.

“Teams up at the top of any division always have someone who is firing, striker-wise, and at the moment that is Joe.

“Hopefully he can keep on scoring and help us to get promoted.

“I’m glad that I only have to play against him in training.

“Joe is a little bit calmer in training than in matches, so it’s not too bad to mark him.”

North End have a third consecutive Deepdale win in their sights tomorrow, having seen off Port Vale and Ipswich, both by a 3-2 scoreline.

The home form had become something of a concern, with too many draws and the odd defeat in front of the faithful.

Said Clarke: “The results at home were something that we needed to sort out. Away, we were resolute and winning games, and we need to be similar here.

“It is hard when teams come and put most of their men behind the ball – it is difficult to break down sometimes.

“We have done all right in the last two home games and now we need to put together a decent run of results.”