Baptiste ready for Villa test

Alex Baptiste scored his first goal for Preston in midweek
Alex Baptiste scored his first goal for Preston in midweek
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Alex Baptiste was pleased to get off the mark in Preston’s draw against Birmingham but is now focused on his next task of keeping Aston Villa’s expensively-assembled attack in check.

Baptiste opened the scoring in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw at St Andrew’s, bundling the ball home from a corner.

That was a 24th career goal for the defender who is on loan from Middlesbrough.

North End’s attention now turns to taking on Villa, with Saturday’s clash being their first visit to Deepdale since January 1974.

The two clubs are locked together on 10 points in the Championship, Villa’s better goal difference seeing them two places higher.

If money does talk, Villa should be far higher up the table, with their four strikers signed for a total of £37m.

Baptiste told the Evening Post: “It is a big game at the weekend and like all of them, it will be tough.

“We are doing pretty well at home so there is no reason why we can’t keep that going.

“Aston Villa have got an unbelievable squad, the firepower they have up top is worth about £40m.

“It is up to us to keep them quiet and impose ourselves on Villa at the other end.”

While PNE were drawing with Villa’s second city rivals Birmingham, Villa drew 1-1 at Barnsley.

Jordan Ayew and Jonathan Kodjia started up front, with Rudy Gestede joining the action from the bench late on.

Ross McCormack, a £12m signing from Fulham, was an unused substitute.

Reflecting on his first-half goal at Birmingham and the night in general, Baptiste had somewhat mixed feelings.

The 30-year-old said: “We should have put the game to bed with chances we had when it was 2-1.

“I should have done better with their first goal because that was my man.

“We came under a lot of pressure for 20 minutes in the second half but I thought we were dealing with it.

“But credit to their lad who scored the second goal, it was a great finish from.

“My goal came from a bit of a scramble and luckily I managed to force it in.

“Bailey Wright and Tom Clarke did what they could to keep the ball alive after the corner and it fell for me to poke over the line.

“It doesn’t matter how they go in, they all count.

“I want to score more goals and as a team, we are looking to get more at set pieces.”

Baptiste joined PNE on transfer deadline day, his loan switch from Boro designed to get him a run of games after a broken leg kept him sidelined for a section of last season.

Tuesday night’s appearance was his fifth in a Preston shirt.

“I’m really enjoying it, the lads have been brilliant with me and I already knew the gaffer and Steve Thompson,” said Baptiste.

“The more I play, the better my fitness will be because I didn’t play a lot in pre-season.

“I’m one of those players who needs to play regularly.”