Doyle relishing friendly PNE competition

Doyle hits the late winner against Hartlepool on Tuesday night

Doyle hits the late winner against Hartlepool on Tuesday night

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Eoin Doyle insists it is friendly competition at the sharp end of the field for Preston North End this season.

The Irishman is one of six frontline strikers at Deepdale all vying for a regular starting berth.

Having scored four goals while on loan from Cardiff last season the 28-year-old got his account as a permanent player up and running with the late winner in North End’s 1-0 EFL Cup win over Hartlepool on Tuesday night.

Doyle is hoping it will be enough to sway boss Simon Grayson’s thinking ahead of Championship football returning to Deepdale on Saturday as Fulham make the trip to Lancashire.

The front man said: “It’s probably the best changing room I’ve ever been in.

“It’s a good group of lads.

“There are no egos, no one thinks they are better than anyone else.

“Everyone likes each other which helps because you’ll go the extra yard for your mate on a game day.

“It’s healthy competition it helps us push each other on. It’s enjoyable.”

What having a plethora of strikers does give Grayson is plenty of different options both tactically and in terms of personnel.

Doyle said: “You wouldn’t be able to say me and Simon (Makienok) are the same type of player or me and Jordan (Hugill).

“I’m not going to win many headers whereas they are going to win the majority of them.

“It’s the way it is, it’s how teams are picked tactically.

“It’s good for the team to have so many assets.”

Doyle played as one of a front two against Hartlepool, liking up well with Hugill and Joe Garner before calmly converting Chris Humphrey’s cross in the 94th minute.

He said: “I can play a couple of positions, out wide or up front.

“When I do play up front I do think I become a bit of a poacher and want to be in the box.

“The gaffer knows what I’m about and any time I’m called upon I give 100 per cent.

“Ultimately it’s up to him but I’ll be ready to go.”

The Dubliner’s strike meant North End’s strikers got up and running a lot quicker than last year and Doyle is hoping others can join the party sooner rather than later.

He said: “Last year was a bit weird in the sense that I don’t think a striker scored until November which is unheard of really.

“It was obviously nice to get off the mark so early on.

“Hopefully we’ll all get off the mark now in the next few weeks and get some points on the board that will take us up the table.”

Others will be hoping it is more straightforward for them to get going, chances coming and going against Hartlepool with it looking likely the game against the League Two side would head into extra time. That was until Doyle popped up with time almost up.

He said: “The balls were coming in thick and fast and we hit the woodwork.

“It felt like every one of my shots was hitting someone’s toes and stuff.

“I felt I maybe could have had a hat-trick on the day. It was brilliant to get the win though.

“At times it felt like it could have been one of those nights where it wasn’t going to go in for us but we got there in the end.”

It’s back to the Championship on Saturday as Fulham visit Deepdale with the hosts looking to bounce back from their opening day defeat at Reading.

Doyle said: “I can’t wait and I’m sure there’ll be a big crowd.

“They’ve obviously started well Fulham, so they’ll bring good support.

“It’s exciting times.”

The sides head into the game in the unusual situation of having faced each other in pre-season, Fulham winning 5-0 as the teams spent time building up the new season in Ireland.

Doyle, however, believes little can be read into what was essentially a glorified training session.

He said: “It’s going to be a very tough game.

“We played them in pre-season and they looked very strong.

“It was a training game though and there were teams getting mixed and lads playing out of position and stuff.

“You couldn’t take much from it but we’ve seen the game from last Friday night against Newcastle (a 1-0 win) and saw how good they are.

“We’ll be confident going into it though, we’ve worked hard in training and will be well prepared.

“It’ll be a good game and I’m looking forward to it.”

That impressive win over Rafa Benitez’s title favourites is further demonstration of the unpredictably of the Championship as PNE look to improve on an impressive 11th-place finish last season.

Doyle said: “In terms of the size of the clubs that have come down it’s certainly more competitive but it’s been the most competitive league for the last decade.

“We’d no right to finish where we finished last season, for people looking from the outside in.

“It’s always very strong and never disappoints but hopefully we can improve on last year.”