Paul Gallagher has seen plenty in a career spanning more than 400 games but the excitement levels are building in him ahead of Preston’s top-of-the-table clash with Bristol City.
The 30-year-old is relishing being in the thick of the action as second takes on first in League One’s game of the weekend.
City come to Deepdale on top of the table, promotion within touching distance.
North End have beaten them this season – at Ashton Gate in November – and a second victory would strengthen their hand in the automatic promotion race.
They go into the weekend with a five-point cushion over MK Dons in third place, an advantage they would dearly love to maintain if not increase.
Gallagher said: “I think we tend to play better against the so-called bigger teams in this league – we do seem to raise our game.
“With six games to go they are all big ones and this is the biggest because it’s the next one.
“We will give Bristol City the respect they deserve because they have been top of this league nearly all season.
“It is good that we have someone to keep shooting at. We will keep trying to catch them.
“We still want to try and finish top, there is no denying that.
“A few months ago we went to their ground and won – that was a great result and performance.
“We played some good stuff that day and not many teams have managed to beat Bristol City on their own patch.
“If as many people as possible could come down and support us on Saturday and for the last few games, that would be brilliant.
“It could all be leading up to something special.
“We experienced a great atmosphere at Bradford on Easter Monday.
“Even when Bradford were 3-0 down, their fans were singing, the atmosphere was electric.
“The support which we took there was fantastic and it is very much appreciated by us.
“What will hopefully help us over the next few games is that we have a lot of experienced players in the squad.
“Quite a few of us have been in situations like this before and know how to manage it.
“It is about being both excited and cool in the head too.
“This is an exciting time to be a player and supporter of this club because we have given ourselves a good chance.
“We are at the stage of the season where it doesn’t matter if the ball hits your backside and goes in, they all count.
“Getting three points from a game is all that matters.
“Against Rochdale we did not play our best but came off the pitch with the win.
“Then we went to Bradford, who play a certain way, and came away with a 3-0 victory.
“Because of the way they play and because of how the pitch was, we had to dig in, hook the ball on at times and get on to the second ball.”
Gallagher got the Bradford win up and running with North End’s opener early in the second half.
It was his 13th goal of the season and had a touch of luck, the Bantams keeper parrying his penalty, only for Gallagher to follow in and score.
“We got off to a good start in the second half with the penalty,” said Gallagher.
“I played the one-two off their keeper and tapped it in!
“I’ll take any goal, however they go into the net.
“To be fair, the Bradford pitch did not have much grass on it and part of me was just thinking about staying on my feet as I took the penalty.
“It was about making sure I hit it on target, do that and you have a chace of scoring.
“Maybe in January when the luck wasn’t with us, the keeper would have saved it and the ball gone behind.
“As it was, the ball came back to me off the keeper and I tapped it in.
“I’m not making excuses but it was like trying to run on Blackpool beach!”
Gallagher has certainly proved his worth during his season-long loan from Leicester.
He is the only player to have played in all of Preston’s 40 league games to date, with him starting 39 of them – Sheffield United at home last August was the exception.
His 13 goals see him in second place in the club’s scoring charts and you can add 12 assists to his achievements.
In the unbeaten run, he has been part of a midfield three with John Welsh and Daniel Johnson.
Said Gallagher: “When you’ve got John in there, that gives DJ and myself licence to get forward to create and score goals.
“There are also stages in games when we all have to get back and do our share of defending.
“In the Rochdale game we were right on top of the back four at the end and sometimes you have to do that, even if it’s not too pretty.
“I’m happy to play anywhere – this season I’ve been up front and all the way across midfield.
“As long as the team is winning and I’m playing, I’m happy.
“The key over the next few weeks is to keep our eye on the ball and not get ahead of ourselves.
“Our results over the last two or three months have been good and hopefully we can stay unbeaten until the end of the season.
“We approach every game in the same way, in that we go out to try and win it. The team spirit here is as good as I have known.”