Will Hayhurst wants Preston North End to put together the best bits of their last two games when they host promotion favourites Sheffield United at Deepdale tomorrow.
Last Saturday, the Lilywhites beat Oldham 1-0 without getting anywhere close to top gear.
They put in a much-improved display against Championship side Middlesbrough in midweek but got no reward as they exited the Capital One Cup.
Winger Hayhurst got his first start of the season at Boro after four appearances off the bench before that.
He set up Preston’s goal for Jordan Hugill and hopes to have done enough to hang on to his place in the side.
Hayhurst said: “The result was disappointing on Tuesday night because I thought the display was very good.
“Unfortunately we let in three goals and we went out of the competition.
“I thought that Middlesbrough looked a good Championship side and it was great experience to play against them.
“Last week against Oldham we didn’t play as well but managed to take the three points.
“Hopefully we can play well and get the win when Sheffield United come here.
“It is a big game because you would expect them to be up there this season.
“They are a big club, a good side and will be coming here looking for a result.
“We will be ready for that and hopefully we can show the rest of League One what we are capable of doing.
“In the league we are unbeaten and it would be nice to stay that way after tomorrow.
“After this we have two weeks without a league game and 10 days after the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie without a game at all.
“So it would be really good if we could take a victory into the international break.”
Hayhurst played on the left-hand side of a three-man attack at the Riverside Stadium, with his inclusion one of seven changes made by North End manager Simon Grayson.
The 20-year-old was pleased to get the nod from the first whistle and show what he is capable of.
He certainly did not do his chances of featuring against the Blades any harm, and is pressing Paul Gallagher hard for the left-wing role. “Middlesbrough was a good experience, even if we did get beaten,” said Hayhurst.
“They give you a bit more time on the ball but are intelligent and tend to read well what you want to do.
“I thought we moved the ball as well as they did and created some chances but unfortunately it was them who scored three goals.
“It was nice to set up the goal – the free-kick routine worked well and Jordan finished it well.”
Hayhurst is loving being back in the Preston fold after his loan spell with York City in the second half of last season.
The Dutton lad views his time at Bootham Crescent as a valuable part of his football development.
While he had gone there with a decent number of first-team appearances already under his belt, a consistent run of games in a physically demanding division added another dimension to his play.
Said Hayhurst: “It is great to be back here with being a local boy – I’m enjoying every minute of it.
“I was itching to get a start after coming off the bench and the gaffer gave me that chance in midweek.
“The loan at York was good for me. I feel that I have come back stronger and as a better player.
“Hopefully I can keep going in the right direction, keep in the squad and find a way into the starting XI.
“Playing with York in League Two, I found that you didn’t get much time on the ball and the play was generally very direct.
“It was very physical, which was good for me – you want to play against different approaches and learn how to win the points in different ways.
“I played in every game when I was there, got a good run and got experience in the play-offs too.
“Linking up with Ben Davies was good too, both for myself and the club.
“Now that I’m back here, I’ve got plenty of competition, which is what you want.
“You look at the squad and the competition is strong in all positions. Look at left-back for example, you have Ben Davies, David Buchanan and Scott Laird pushing for just one place.”
This is Hayhurst’s third season as a professional, having come up through the youth ranks at North End – twice breaking his leg along the way.
“I love the place, love having my family and friends close by,” said Hayhurst.
“Hopefully I can be part of things here for a long time to come.
“As a player I feel a lot stronger and more physical than I was.
“I guess that comes with age but being at York added a more physical side to my game which will hopefully help me here.
“We also work hard here on the fitness side of things, we do the weights session with Tom Little our fitness coach.”
EIGHT-PAGE PNE PREVIEW EVERY FRIDAY IN THE LEP – TODAY INCLUDING SCOTT WISEMAN COLUMN