Late call sees Kirkland make PNE home debut

Chris Kirkland
Chris Kirkland
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Chris Kirkland saluted the performance of Preston North End’s back three for helping him keep a clean sheet against Brighton on his Deepdale debut.

he 34-year-old was drafted into the Lilywhites starting XI just 90 minutes before kick-off because Anders Lindegaard was ill with a stomach bug.

He did not have a great deal to do in the 0-0 draw, called upon to make one save to deny Seagulls winger Jamie Murphy in the second half.

Kirkland was quick to praise Tom Clarke, Paul Huntington and Bailey Wright, the trio defending well in front of him.

“Those three are proper old fashioned centre-halves, I like that,” Kirkland told the Evening Post.

“They can play too and when you are behind those three, it makes your job so much easier.

“Every day in training I see what those lads do and it is great to be part of that.”

Kirkland’s only other game for North End since joining last August, was in the FA Cup against Peterborough two months ago.

He has played a supporting role to loan keepers Jordan Pickford, Sam Johnstone and Lindegaard this season.

Said Kirkland: “Probably 10 years ago, I would have felt differently about being sat on the bench a lot of the time.

“I know the situation here, I was brought in as an experienced No.2 to help Jordan to start with.

“That lad can go on to do whatever he wants, he was magnificent for us and probably kept us out of the bottom three for the first few weeks he was here.

“Then Sam came in who was just as good, him and Jordan have years ahead of them.

“Anders is here now and has come in with the experience he gained at a massive club in Manchester United.

“The gaffer knows what he will get from me and I will be there whenever I’m needed.

“I feel just as good as I did when I was 20, I probably work harder now because when you are younger, you take things for granted.”

Kirkland, had only returned to training last Thursday after a two-game absence with a knee injury, that timely with Lindegaard being ill.

“I did my medial ligament and missed a few days,” said the one-cap England international.

“On Thursday I did a little bit of training but then could not do too much on Friday because the training pitches were covered in snow.

“Anders had come in on Friday and said he wasn’t feeling great so I got an inkling then that I might be needed.

“I saw him again at 1pm on Saturday and he looked like death warmed up, I knew then he would not be able to play.

“He will probably be alright for the game at Nottingham Forest tomorrow but I’m ready if needed.”

The goalless draw against Brighton – the fourth in a row between the sides – saw PNE stay in 10th place.

They are six points behind Sheffield Wednesday who are in the last play-off place, but Cardiff, Birmingham and Ipswich all won above them.

Kirkland said: “It is a case of taking it game by game and seeing what happens.

“No one would have expected us to be where we are if they are being honest.”