Derby day is new territory for PNE midfielder

Ben Pearson pleads his innocence during last month's game at Derby

Ben Pearson pleads his innocence during last month's game at Derby

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Ben Pearson will get his first taste of a North West derby this weekend when Preston make the short trip to Bolton.

The Oldham lad’s experience of derby football has so far only come on the other side of the Pennines, during his time on loan with Barnsley.

Having earned a recall to the PNE side at Nottingham Forest in midweek, he is in prime position to start the Gentry Day clash at the Macron Stadium.

Midfielder Pearson said: “This will be my first derby game for Preston and it is a big one to look forward to.

“We are taking a lot of fans with us to Bolton and I’m sure it will be a great atmosphere.

“I played in derby games during my time with Barnsley – the big one there was against Sheffield United.

“There were also games against Bradford and Doncaster which were big ones over there.

“When you come out of the tunnel on to the pitch in these big games, you hear the noise of the crowd and that tells you what kind of game you are going to be involved in.

“The first goal in games like this are often crucial, especially if you can score it against a side who are struggling.

“It is important that we start well against Bolton and try to get the first goal.”

Pearson feels settled at Deepdale following his £300,000 move from Manchester United in January.

In recent weeks, he has had more of a watching brief from the bench after a two-game ban for totting-up 10 yellow cards saw him lose his place in the side.

An injury to Alan Browne led to him getting back in against Forest, with him putting in an all-action performance at the City Ground.

“When you get a chance in the tea, you have to make sure you come in and make a difference,” said Pearson.

“Hopefully I did that at Forest and I can now stay in the team.

“I had no complaints about not being the team lately because there is strong competition for places in our midfield.

“After my suspension, I had to bide my time on the bench and wait for an opportunity. The other lads were doing well in the team and it was a case of coming off the bench and trying to make an impact that way.

“From a personal point of view, I was pleased with my performance at Forest.

“As a team, I thought we played quite well and were a bit unlucky not to get something out of it.

“Their goalkeeper made two superb saves in the second half – the first one from Jordan Hugill was amazing.

“We are still in a good position in the table, only seven points away from the play-offs at the moment.

“It would only take two or three wins to be right back in the mix, so let’s see what happens. We have not set ourselves any targets, we take it one game at a time and go from there.”

The Forest defeat saw Pearson play a box-to-box role rather than the holding midfield position he had done in his first few games in a North End shirt.

For the time being, he is happy to change between the two but acknowledges that the time will come for him to excel in one of the positions.

“At the moment I’m just happy to be playing, whatever role the manager gives me,” Pearson said.

“Over the last few years I’ve chopped and changed between being a box-to-box player and a holding midfielder.

“When I’ve had more time and experience in both roles, I will find my feet and settle more into one of them.

“I think it is important that eventually I nail one position down, otherwise you get the ‘versatile player’ tag.

“When that happens and you have not got a regular position, you tend to just get chucked in when someone is injured.

“So in the near future, I need to nail down a position and stick with that. But at the moment, I’m still learning the game and getting used to different roles.”

Pearson could count himself unlucky for being involved in Forest’s winner on Tuesday.

After Paul Gallagher’s free-kick was cleared out of the box, Pearson was first to it and had a shot which was charged down.

The ball bounced straight to Ryan Mendes who led a Forest breakaway upfield, one which ended in Nelson Oliveria netting the game’s only goal.

Pearson, 21, said: “It was just one of those things and was very unlucky.

“Forest had not left anyone back so I had gone forward in case anything fell our way. When the ball came out to me, I hit the shot as hard as I could and unfortunately it ricocheted straight to their lad, who set off on a run upfield.

“My shot could have gone anywhere – it could have gone into the top corner of the net and we would have been celebrating.

“As it was, Forest broke on us and they scored what turned out to be the winning goal.”

North End will be without Joe Garner at Bolton, the striker starting a two-game ban for 10 yellow cards.

Pearson said: “ I have watched a clip of the game when Joe was booked and he didn’t do anything wrong, so that is disappointing.”