PNE defender has no fears
Alex Baptiste believes Preston North End are ready for their acid test in October.
The Lilywhites’ improving form will be put under the microscope as they take on the Championship’s top four teams before the month is out.
The run kicks off at Brighton on Saturday with PNE’s versatile defender insisting Simon Grayson’s men fear no one.
“We’ve done really well in this past month but this one coming up is really tough,” said the 30-year-old, signed on a season-long loan from Middlesbrough on deadline day.
“We know that a few bad results and we’re going back down the table.
“There’s nothing to fear against these teams though.
“We go in there full of confidence but we also know that we need to do a job.
“As a player, as a team, as a staff, we don’t feel inferior to anyone.
“Names and teams mean nothing. Obviously we’ll be the underdogs against the four teams because of where we are in the league but we’ve done well in the last month.
“This is a big one for us now and it’s critical we get points on the board.”
While plenty of attention will be on the games against relegated sides Norwich and Newcastle United, this Saturday sees North End travel to face a Premier League side in waiting in the Seagulls.
Then top of the table Huddersfield visit Deepdale on Wednesday night.
“Brighton spent massively again in the summer and they’ve got a massive squad.” Baptiste said.
“From the outside looking in, Huddersfield are the surprise package but inside the game we know they’re doing really good things.
“It’s a great month to play in and a massive month for us.
“We just need to make sure we’re on the ball because it could go either way.”
PNE head into the game on the back of the latest international break.
Opinion is divided on whether the timing was good or bad for Preston but Baptiste is pleased to have been able to recharge the batteries ahead of another busy period of games.
“I look forward to them because we’ve basically played Saturday-Tuesday all the way through this last month,” he said.
“It was good to have a little break.
“We’ve had a good few days off but we’ve trained hard too and we’re looking forward to this week.
“Again it’s Saturday-Tuesday all the way through to the next break so we’ve got to be right at it.”
There may have been no competitive action for the players but Baptiste says it’s been business as usual, Grayson putting his squad through their paces in behind-closed-doors games against Burnley and Fleetwood, as well as working on things in training and doing some fitness tests.
“We’ve played twice and ironed a few things out and trained really hard,” said the former Blackpool, Blackburn and Bolton man.
“I had the weekend off and that but it’s really been business as normal.
“We haven’t played a meaningful league game but we’ve had two games in between so it hasn’t really changed anything.”
The international breaks means Baptiste has spent more time in and around the PNE squad and the experienced defender believes he is now starting to feel like part of the furniture at Deepdale.
“I’d say I’ve settled in,” “I knew quite a few of the staff before I came here and it’s hard getting used everyone and being in a new changing room.
“Me and Geads (fellow deadline day signing Aiden McGeady) came in on the last day of this window and we’ve been here about six weeks and I’m really enjoying it.
“Results are starting to pick up and we’ve got a big month coming up and we need to carry on what we were doing before the international break.”
Plenty of players emerged from the fringes of the Preston squad during the successful run-up to the break, with goalkeeper Chris Maxwell amongst those to star.
“He’s been brilliant and Anders Lindegaard has too,” said Baptiste. “Maxy came in for the Bournemouth game and did really well and cemented his place and he’s been absolutely fantastic.
“I think it was in the Wigan game he saved me. I was stuck in the mud and he came out and swept up.
“The way he flies out of his net and clears the danger over your head is massive for us as a back four, because we can stay high and know we’ve got someone sweeping behind us. He’s a good shot-stopper as well.
“He’s been fantastic and hopefully he can continue that.”
Despite the good run, Baptiste says PNE almost have to start again, starting at the Amex Stadium.
“After the break it doesn’t mean a lot now,” he said. We’ve got the top four coming up in these next four games.
“This month massive, if you look at it. We want to be further up the table than we are and we’re going in the right direction so it’s important we don’t slip in this next month.”