PNE defender Andy Boyle targets clean sheet against Bristol City
After the Friday night shut-out of Bolton, Andy Boyle is hoping that more clean sheets can follow for Preston North End.
The goalless draw in front of the Sky cameras was PNE’s first clean sheet since the same result against Millwall on September 23.
In the seven matches in between, Alex Neil’s men had shipped 17 Championship goals.
They failed to win six of those , the exception being the 2-1 victory at Hull.
So it underlines the need for North End to keep it clean as they look to rediscover their form.
Centre-half Boyle saw the 0-0 draw with Bolton as a starting-point.
While not a classic game by any stretch, it halted the run of four defeats and gave them something to build-on going into the Tuesday night clash with Bristol City.
Boyle said: “It stopped the rot a bit, got us a point on the board and the clean sheet was a positive from our end because we haven’t done enough of them of late.
“If we don’t concede it gives us the platform to go on and get at least a point.
“I thought we were unlucky not to win the game.”
If North End were going to win the game, their chance came in the first half hour.
They carved-out three or four sights of goal from set-pieces, one of which fell to Boyle.
His header from a Paul Gallagher corner whistled across goal and just wide of the far post.
“We had been working on set-pieces, being committed to making our runs.
“When it is Gally putting the ball over, the quality is always going to be quality.
“If you attack the ball well, you are going to get the chance to make contact.
“We did that on a couple of occasions on Friday night.
“Scoring from set pieces is something we want to improve on, there haven’t been too many goals that way.
“That was something which the gaffer and his staff had looked at.”
The visit to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City is the first of two long distance away games this week.
It is followed by Saturday’s trip to Norwich, a game which pits Preston manager Neil against his former club.
Boyle is of the view that a vastly different test awaits them in the west country than it did against Bolton in terms of playing style.
“On Friday, Bolton sat in and made it difficult for us,” said Boyle.
“With Bristol City being the home team, you would think they will be a bit more open.
“That is what you get in the Championship, different teams with different styles.
“You have got to be switched on, ready to deal with whatever the other team comes up with.”
Boyle has started the last three games after a patient wait for an opportunity.
Until the home clash with Aston Villa at the start of the month, he had only played in the League Cup defeat against Accrington Stanley.
The injury pile-up in PNE’s defence opened the door to a return, with them without eight defenders at one stage.
Gradually the numbers are getting better at the back but Boyle is likely to keep his place against Bristol City.
“It is quite difficult when you don’t play but it is about staying positive and being ready for when your chance comes,” said the Irishman.
“When you have a 46-game season, everyone is going to be involved at some stage because of injuries and suspensions.
“If you chance comes, you’ve got to plant the seed in the manager’s head to make it difficult to leave out.
“I’m definitely feeling a lot sharper since coming back into the side.
“The first couple of games I was catching my breath a bit.
“You can train as much as you want but it is playing matches which brings the sharpness back.
“I’m enjoying being back involved, I’ve had to be a bit patient as I was last season.
“It’s good to be part of it and I’ll be raring to go if I’m selected at Bristol City.”
The Springfields treatment room has been a Who’s Who of defenders lately.
Calum Woods came back against Bolton, while there was the welcome sight of Tom Clarke sat on the bench.
Clarke’s injury, a ruptured Achilles tendon, dates back to April.
While it was a needs-must job with the skipper being named on the bench, it was still a boost to have Clarke involved.
Said Boyle: “Clarkey is a big player for us, even though he has been out injured.
“He has been around the place throughout, giving us encouragement and support.
“It was great to see him back in the squad on Friday, that was a big step forward for him.
“When players are out long term, it is always hard for them.
“But we are tight-knit here and everyone stays involved.”