Josh Harrop loves playing in a PNE team on the front foot
The goals may not have flowed until Tuesday night but Josh Harrop says North End fans should be excited about the club's attacking talent.
The former Manchester United man is one of those competing for a spot in Alex Neil’s frontline ahead of the trip to Birmingham City on Saturday.
The Lilywhites had only scored three times in the Championship before seeing off previously unbeaten Cardiff 3-0 at Deepdale, doubling their tally for the season.
It was a night where Harrop got his first for the club since his summer move from Old Trafford with Sean Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen, Jordan Hugill and Alan Browne also to the fore.
With Callum Robinson, Daryl Horgan and on-loan Arsenal man Stephy Mavididi also at Neil’s disposal, there are plenty of options for the PNE boss.
“We’ve got a lot of attacking players and a lot of runners and they’re young as well,” said Harrop.
“The fitness levels of all the lads are great.
“It’s exciting to be able to express yourself.
“It works well because there are a lot of different players.
“We’ve all good very good attributes but contribute in different ways.
“There’s hold-up play, speed, technical ability, there’s a mixture of everything in the team which is helping us a lot.”
Neil has made no secret of the fact that he will rotate his squad.
Harrop is one of those to have been in and out of the side thus far, the Cardiff victory just his second Championship start with three of his five Preston appearances coming from the bench.
The 21-year-old insists everyone is buying into a squad game that has helped North End to fifth in the early table.
“We’ve started great,” he said. “The performances have been excellent from all the lads.
“Players have come in and out and we’ve changed it up.
“I got my chance against Cardiff and everyone that’s come in has put in a shift for the team.
“No one’s sulked, no one’s been negative, everyone’s been positive and I think that’s helped us with the results we’ve had.
“Specific teams play in specific ways and have a different style of football.
“You’ve just got to be ready to perform when called upon.
“I obviously want to be playing every week though.
“Hopefully now I can slot in and get a few games.”
The former England Under-20s international did his case no harm by opening the scoring against Neil Warnock’s side as part of an excellent all-round display playing just off the front.
Stepping up to take a free-kick 25 yards from goal, Harrop arrowed a low shot beyond Neil Etheridge shortly before half-time.
“I knew it was wet so I thought I’d make sure I hit the target and see what happened,” he said. “I just chanced it.
“You’ve got to grab the ball as quickly as possible for free-kicks to make sure you get it.
“There’s competition and it’s a role I’ll take if I’m asked to do it. I was asked on Tuesday and it paid off.
“It was a really good win. They’ve been in great form and hadn’t lost this season.
“It’s always good to get a win against a team in form like that and prove that we’ve got the ability to do that.”
As he wheeled away in celebration it was the kind of moment Harrop would have hoped for when he made the bold decision to swap Old Trafford for Deepdale in the summer.
The Stockport-born attacker had been offered a new deal with the Red Devils but wanted to play games and carve a career out for himself, with first-team game-time far from guaranteed under Jose Mourinho.
“I want to be making a name for myself,” Harrop said. “I want to be scoring and a I want to be winning games.
“With the team we’ve got we can do well this season.
“We’ve just got to stay focused and work together and work hard.”
PNE’s No.10 is not alone in the belief that this young and emerging side can achieve something this season, his manager having been bullish about his side’s chances.
The Cardiff victory was just the latest positive result in what has been an impressive start to the season against some of the division’s fancied sides.
“We’ve always been confident,” Harrop said.
“We knew there were going to be some hard games and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I think that’s helped us, because we’ve had to step up and prove ourselves.
“If we want to push on and do well this season we’ve got to win games and perform against some of the best teams.
“We’re not setting the standards too high. The target is to win the games we have to play.
“We know the ability in the changing room and what we can do – we’ve just got to make sure we stay focused, stay together as a team and win the games we need to win.”
A lot of that belief has come from the manager, Neil having tasted promotion to the Premier League with Norwich.
“He’s a tough guy,”
Harrop said. “He’s tough but he’s got on with the lads well and everyone understands what he wants as a team and individually.
“What he’s doing is working and helping us a lot in the games.
“He’s building the confidence between everyone really well.”
With all that’s going on at Deepdale, does that make the Lilywhites favourites against Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham, who have lost their last four league games in a tough start to the season?
“I never say in this league that you’re favourites in any game,” Harrop said.
“We just go into it to do what we do and attack the game and try and win the match.
“We’re going to go there with a lot confidence after the Cardiff game but I wouldn’t say we go there as favourites.
“It will be a tough game, it will be a hard game.
“We’re confident as a group of lads though. We’ll go there to win.”