Goal is massive boost for Joe – PNE skipper

Preston North End players look dejected after going 2-0 behind''against Blackburn
Preston North End players look dejected after going 2-0 behind''against Blackburn
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PNE captain Tom Clarke backed Joe Garner to start banging the goals in after the striker ended his 17-game goal drought in North End’s 2-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

Garner scored 27 goals last term but had failed to find the target this season until he lined-up against former club Blackburn.

Before the strike, the last time Garner had hit the back of the net was from the penalty spot on May 10 in PNE’s 3-0 play-off second-leg victory over Chesterfield but he finally opened his Championship account after pouncing inside the box.

Clarke believes the goal will be a ‘massive boost’ and is convinced the hitman will go from strength to strength.

He said: “It is a massive boost.Joe is tireless off the ball.

“It was just a case of getting those knock downs for him and something will come his way and finally it did and that will kick him on.

“He’s been confident in his own game he’s been playing well so it’s just a case of getting the ball in the back of the net now.”

Clarke has missed the last five weeks after sustaining a shoulder injury in PNE’s 0-0 draw with Cardiff in October.

His return is even more timely after his fellow centre back Bailey Wright picked up two yellow cards for two fouls on Bengali-Fode Koita in the last 10 minutes and will now miss the next two games due to suspension.

The defender was only named on the bench but entered the fray at half-time with North End 1-0 down thanks to keeper Jordan Pickford’s fluke own goal in the 31st minute.

It was the first time Pickford has conceded in the Championship since Sheffield Wednesday’s Lewis McGugan scored a 35-yard screamer in injury time at Hillsborough.

Clarke said the ‘scrappy’ manner in which their six-match clean sheet record ended hurts but urged PNE to kick on and keep their heads up as the bumper Christmas fixture period approaches.

He said: “We all are gutted. We pride ourselves on clean sheets, it is something that we work hard on as a team.

“So for a scrappy goal like that to go in hurts.

“The lads have been unbelievable we pride ourself on clean sheets and that is what we have done recently and it is unfortunate that an unlucky goal has gone in to kick Rovers on.

“It is disappointing but we have to kick on now because we have games coming thick and fast.”

Clarke’s former Huddersfield team-mate Jordan Rhodes fired home from the spot after Paul Huntington brought down Chris Taylor in the box in the 52nd minute.

Clarke says the team need to communicate more and be tighter to prevent giving away penalties like that but believes PNE should have had a penalty in injury time after winger Adam Reach went down in the box after an aerial challenge.

He said: “As a team we probably need to be tighter and probably talk more. Huntington probably doesn’t need to slide in there but that is due to communication and something we will work on.

“I thought we started well, passed it well and had a few chances.

“After the first goal they started to get on top, then they got the penalty that killed us a little bit but I thought we kept the pressure on really well and had the chances and got the goal.

“Maybe we could have had a little more chances if the ball had bounced for us.

“The bounce of the ball just wasn’t going to us and they were clearing it or we had half chances that didn’t go our way.

“Reach went down and it looked like there were hands on his back that has pushed him down. Maybe he’s gone down a little to easy but I thought it was a penalty.

“It is just disappointing for us and the fans that we could not get the result we wanted but we will kick on and look to bounce back against Fulham on Saturday.”