PNE defender's found his scoring touch

Tom Clarke is pleased to have got back among the goals this season, the Preston skipper having previously hit something of a barren patch.

Tuesday, 3rd January 2017, 12:07 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:00 pm
Preston skipper Tom Clarke celebrates scoring at Burton

The defender netted PNE’s winner against Burton at the Pirelli Stadium on Monday.

It was his third goal of the campaign, Clarke having also netted against Cardiff and Huddersfield.

Prior to his goal in the 3-0 win over Cardiff in September, he had not scored for almost two years.

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“That’s three goals, which is better because I don’t think any of the central defenders scored last season,” Clarke told the Evening Post.

“Alex Baptiste has also got three and we’re happy to contribute.

“It was nice to score with a shot against Burton – most of mine are headers.”

Clarke struck in first-half stoppage time to sink the Brewers, taking advantage of hesitancy in their defence.

Callum Robinson’s cross had looked to be going out of play but Clarke sneaked in at the far post and found the net from a narrow angle.

“I think their defence and keeper thought that Eoin Doyle was offside when Callum put over the cross and they stopped,” said the 29-year-old.

“But I carried on my run, saw their keeper hesitate and saw a bit of a gap.

“As soon as it left my foot, I knew it was going in.

“Callum’s ball in was a good one and really the keeper made up my mind for me.

“It wasn’t the greatest game we will play but we got the result we wanted.

“We knew it would be difficult on a tight pitch and when you look at Burton’s record, they have won a lot of games at home.

“We had gone into the game on the back of a really good performance against Sheffield Wednesday, although it had ended disappointingly with their late equaliser.”

Clarke felt PNE had coped well with the quick turnaround between the Wednesday and Burton games.

They had a day to recover, the hosts having longer after playing last Thursday.

Said Clarke: “The gaffer made a few changes to freshen things up but quite a few lads started both games.

“We did the right things to recover in between Saturday and Monday.

“Our fitness coach Tom Little worked with us, he had us in the gym and on the bikes to get the legs going.

“In the hotel we stayed in on Sunday night, there was the pool to use, which is good for recovery.

“You know that at Christmas and New Year it is going to be busy and it is something you get on with.

“Once we kicked off, the concentration is on the game and you forget that you’ve just played a couple of days before.”

PNE turn their attentions to the FA Cup this weekend, with Arsenal the visitors to Deepdale on Saturday teatime.

“It is a game we are really looking forward to, it’s a great one for the fans,” said Clarke.

“Arsenal are favourites and we have nothing to lose, so who knows what could happen?

“There will be a full house and a great atmosphere.”