Paul Huntington targets another shut-out as Preston head to Derby
Having earned a point at Leeds playing with 10 men for more than half-an-hour, there is no let-up for Preston as they head to Pride Park to take on Derby County.
Ben Pearson’s red card in the 60th minute left them a man shy and having to cope with something of a Leeds onslaught.
MORE: Alex Neil tells Ben Pearson to cut out the cardsIt was a job well done, to the extent North End could have won it themselves deep into stoppage time with a shot from Josh Harrop which hit the bar.
Paul Huntington was part of the North End defence which held firm at Elland Road, a challenge which he said was as much mental as physical.
With the legs recovered from that test, the next one comes against a Derby side who are fancied to make a big push for promotion this term.
Keeping 11 men on the pitch will be a good starting point for North End – being a man shy is not something they want to experience too often.
“Away from home with 10 men, a point at Leeds was a good result,” Huntington told the Post.
“For an hour I thought we were on top and had started the second half really well.
“It was difficult for the last half-hour but we kept our shape well.
“Mentally, as well as physically, we stayed switched on and did a good job.
“We had two chances right at the end which would have been a nice tonic had they gone in.
“Josh had the shot against the bar and there was Daniel Johnson’s cut-back which no one could get a touch on.
“As a team, a lot of what we did with 10 men was down to good communication.
“Leeds had the extra man in midfield so we had to drop that little bit deeper, stay compact and narrow, make ourselves hard to break down.
“I thought we stuck to that task really well.
“When you get a man sent off, it can go two ways.
“Either it can galvanise you – like it did on Saturday – or it goes the other way and you can fall apart.
“I thought we used it as a positive thing, it showed how strong the team spirit is here.
“There were things we have looked at from the game which we could have done a bit better with.
“A couple of times our attacking players were in 2 v 2 or 3 v 3 situations which we didn’t make the most of.”
Huntington sees the test at Derby as being similar to that North End faced at Leeds and against Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day – similar because of the expectations piled on the shoulders of the opposition.
The centre-half said: “It is another tough game but we say that every week in this division.
“Derby’s expectations are similar to the first two clubs we played and we have to go there to try and impose our game on them.
“A lot of the expectation comes down to the money spent.
“But as we have seen, that doesn’t always count for a lot in this division.
“It is very much an on-the-day thing, showing your worth individually and as a team collectively.
“You look at what we have done against some of the tough sides in the last couple of seasons.
“We beat Brighton who went on to get promoted, we beat Huddersfield at home.
“It is really difficult in this division, if you are not quite at your best you get found out.”
Huntington has had the company of Tommy Spurr in the centre of defence for the opening two league games, with both sitting out the cup defeat at Accrington last midweek.
With two clean sheets in the bag, a third at Derby would be very welcome.
“We get on well with each other and will build up a stronger understanding the more games we play.
“People perhaps saw Tommy more as a left-back, bearing in mind he played there for us last season when he was in the team.
“I’ve known Tommy for a long time – when I was in the academy at Newcastle, he would play against us for Sheffield Wednesday.
“In their youth team he was always a centre-half and that role has suited him this season.
“We’ll keep listening to the manager and staff about what they want from us.
“Understandings on the pitch tend to develop with the more you play together.”
The North End squad are now in their second month of working with Alex Neil, and it is a case of so far, so good, according to Huntington.
“It is very different to the previous regime,” said the 29-year-old.
“We have to be open to it and move with it.
“I think it has shown over the last two games that we are buying into it.
“At first there was a lot of information to take on board but we are learning as a group what he wants.”