Welsh ready for PNE’s big month

John Welsh with his two sons and three nephews who were mascots against Aston Villa  (photo by Ian Robinson)

John Welsh with his two sons and three nephews who were mascots against Aston Villa (photo by Ian Robinson)

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John Welsh thinks there is plenty more to come from Preston when they resume action next weekend after the international break.

The Lilywhites put together a four-game unbeaten run in league and cup ahead of the fortnight’s gap in the fixture list.

Midfielder Welsh started three of those four matches, being instrumental in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa the last time out.

September and the start of the October brought PNE much more reward than they had got in August.

They gathered 10 points from their league games, compared to just three in the season’s first batch of matches.

Welsh was pleased to be part of that improvement and now has his focus on the six games coming up in a three-week spell.

“Results have got better over the last few weeks and we always thought we were capable of that,” Welsh told the Evening Post.

“We would have liked to have made a better start to the season – it wasn’t the greatest – but we’ve picked up since.

“If you compare it to this time last year, we are five points better off.

“Last season, we really improved as the weeks and months went on and we aim to keep getting better this year.

“As a player and as a club as a whole, the aim must be to always improve.

“I think that we should be higher up the table than we are at the moment, given how a couple of games went earlier in the season.

“But that is where we are and we now go into a run of games which look tough but are very exciting.

“We play all of the top four before the next break and I’m looking forward to them.

“The matches are coming in quick bursts, we played seven in three weeks and now we have six more.

“So this is probably a good time to have a break, there were a couple of injuries in the Villa game and a few lads have been carrying knocks for a while.

“These international breaks allow for a bit of rest and recovery, a chance to get back up to full fitness.

“Even with the injuries we’ve had, we have got a big squad which has been able to cope.

“Lads have come into the team and done well, given a good account of themselves.”

One of those players to have come into the team and done well in recent weeks, is Welsh’s midfield partner Ben Pearson.

Last month’s 3-2 victory at Bournemouth was pivotal for Pearson.

Simon Grayson handed the ex-Manchester United man only his second start of the season for the League Cup clash.

A strong display in the engine room kept Pearson in the squad for the next league game against Wigan – one he joined as a sub in the second half.

Pearson then started the games against Birmingham and Villa, netting his first goal of the campaign to open the scoring in the win over Villa.

Said Welsh: “ I think the Bournemouth game was one where a few of the lads caught the eye and did well.

“Ben has got his rewards since that game – he stayed in the manager’s plans and you saw how well he played when we beat Villa.

“The manager here works on the principle that if you keep working hard and train properly, your chance is going to come.

“Ben has got loads of energy, which is what you need in midfield.

“He is deceivingly quick too, he gets around the pitch and is able to press the other team in different areas.

“I’m sure that Ben was very disappointed not to have started the season but he’s making up for that by putting in some good performances.”

Welsh was in a similar position to Pearson, in that his chance did not come right away this season.

His first slice of action was the away win at Queens Park Rangers on August 20.

He stayed in the side for the next three games before sitting out the victory over Cardiff and the drubbing at Brentford.

Preston’s recent improvement in form has come largely at Deepdale.

The win over Villa was the third on the bounce in front of the home faithful, all done with clean sheets.

Said Welsh: “Every club in the country wants to have good home form.

“It is at home where you should be picking up a lot of your points.

“The type of side that we are though, we are quite well suited to playing away.

“We play from the shape of the team, keep that shape as much as we can.

“Sometimes you have to change focus at home and do the work on the training ground to tweak things.

“We changed shape for the Villa game and that worked really well.

“The aim was to press Villa high up the pitch, stop them finding space to pass the ball.

“It was effective, we worked very hard and really deserved the win.”

For Welsh, the Villa game was a special one personally.

His two sons and three nephews were mascots, the day enjoyed by them all.

Said Welsh: “They had been asking me for ages to be mascots and I finally sorted it out when we played Villa. Luckily enough, it came in a game I started.

“They enjoyed coming into the dressing room beforehand and meeting the lads.

“It was great that we won and now they want to do it all over again.

“My youngest son is three and after the game he wanted to go back out on to the pitch to play a game.

“He is just getting into football and at the moment likes Preston and Liverpool.

“The older lad is eight and is more used to going to the Liverpool games.

“But he likes Preston, with me playing here.

“I must say a big thank-you to the staff behind the scenes who look after the mascots – they were brilliant.

“When everyone was in the tunnel just before we went out, the staff had it all organised so I could focus on the game.

“It was a really special day and the result made it all the better.”

Preston are back in action against Brighton at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, then they welcome Huddersfield to Deepdale on October 19.