Andy Boyle's exclusive PNE column

Being handed just over an hour's notice that I would be making my debut at Derby last week was, shall we say, a little bit of a challenge for my girlfriend Hayley.

Thursday, 16th March 2017, 4:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:01 am
Going up for a header with ex-PNE favourite Dave Nugent of Derby

Having moved over from Ireland to the North West of England with me after I signed for Preston in the January transfer window, she was naturally keen to see me in action when I pulled on the Lilywhite shirt for the very first time.

However, Derby is a good few miles away from Preston so it looked a tall order for her to get to Pride Park at such short notice, especially as she is a little bit unsure of the geography of England.

Having called a taxi, it was fortunate that the driver knew exactly way to go and got her to the game so she could see me play.

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She arrived around 20 minutes after kick-off, but I think she enjoyed the game and the cabbie did too because he got a ticket and watched the match with her.

I am not too sure how much the fare to Derby was but it was great that she came down to watch especially as it was also my birthday.

Walking out against the Rams was a fantastic way to celebrate turning 26 and I was really pleased with the way I played.

Even though it’s quite short notice to hear your name being read out that you are in the starting XI, I was ready to go.

I have trained hard every day with the expectation of playing so that it’s not really a surprise when you are called upon.

On the night I thought we had done okay as a team and deserved to get a point out of the game even if Tom Barkhuizen’s goal came right at the end in the 95th minute.

After the game, the manager came out and said he was pleased with the way I played.

It was my first competitive game since my last game for Dundalk in the Irish Premier League back in December.

That’s quite a long break really and I feel if I can put a run of games together, I will get more match fit and my performances will improve.

I always knew when I signed for the club that I would have to be patient and wait for my chance.

The lads had been on a good run to be fair and were doing well.

I knew once I got my chance that it was down to me to take it and make my mark.

Following the 1-1 draw with Derby, the manager kept faith with me for the following Saturday and I was really thrilled to make my home debut at Deepdale against Reading – a match we won 3-0.

It’s been great to be involved the last two games and also to get two good results. In both games I came up against some very good and experienced centre forwards – players like David Nugent, Darren Bent and Yann Kermorgant.

I felt like I acquitted myself well against them and this is the reason why I signed for Preston – to test myself against strikers of that ilk.

You want to play against the best and I suppose for me being part of a back four which kept a clean sheet on Saturday was a big thing.

I thought as team we did really well against the Royals and once against Tom Barkhuizen stole the show by scoring two goals and setting up the other for Daryl Horgan.

Tom’s first goal was sensational and he is in rich vein of form at the minute.

He has been in the same boat as me by the fact that he joined the club in the January window and has had to wait for his chance in the team. He has certainly taken his opportunity over the last few weeks and has scored something like four goals in three starts.

Tom’s done brilliantly – it’s just his sheer pace which causes team’s problems, especially on the break. He is a really exciting player.

Hopefully Tom will show the same sort of form for this weekend’s big clash against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

If selected, it will be my first taste of a Lancashire derby and it’s a game that everybody connected with the club is relishing.

Blackburn are a big club but are fighting for their lives near the bottom of the table and will be looking to get the points to stave off the threat of relegation. Likewise, we desperately need the points to try to get nearer to the play-off places.

We are in eighth position at the moment six points behind Sheffield Wednesday, who are sixth.

If we can pick up some big victories over the remainder of the season, you never know where we could end up. Momentum is a big thing in football, but we just have to take it one game at a time and see what happens.