Ben Pearson felt Preston North End’s players could hold their heads high after the agonising FA Cup defeat to Arsenal.
The midfielder was at his industrious best as Simon Grayson’s side flew out of the blocks, Callum Robinson sending Deepdale into raptures with a seventh-minute opener.
The Gunners improved after the interval however, equalising right at the start of the second period through Aaron Ramsey before Olivier Giroud grabbed a cruel winner at the death, the Frenchman’s strike deflecting off Alan Browne as it beat Chris Maxwell.
“When you play against a team like that you’ve got to put yourself about,” said Pearson.
“It gives you a marker of where you’re at, playing against those sort of players.
“You can either crumble under it or thrive on it.
“I think all the lads out there put a shift in and I don’t think any player could say that they didn’t try their best.”
The 22-year-old, who recently signed a new three-and-a-half year deal at Deepdale, admitted the manner of defeat after such a Herculean effort was tough to take.
“We dominated the first half really and could have been two or three ahead going into the second half,” said Pearson.
“Then we knew they were going to come out strong.
“They scored early doors which just killed us a bit but we hung in there.
“It’s just devastating to lose so late in the game.”
Pearson was a key cog in Preston’s pressing wheel, as Grayson’s men did everything they could to stop the Gunners finding their feet in front of a packed crowd.
With TV cameras in attendance looking for an upset it worked to perfection and the only thing lacking was a second or even third goal, such was PNE’s dominance in the opening period.
“It was our gameplan to start on the front foot and not give them too much time on the ball so they couldn’t get into their rhythm,” he said.
“You know if they start knocking it around then it can be a struggle.
“They didn’t start with the intensity that we showed.
“Maybe it wasn’t as easy as they thought it might be.
“From word go we started well. Against a team like Arsenal you’ve got to press as much as possible.
“They were sloppy, they gave quite a lot of loose balls away and in previous games we haven’t capitalised but I thought we did.
“We did create a lot of chances from their mistakes it was just that final cross or final shot.”
The second half reaction was a predictable one from Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side and despite the heartbreaking manner of defeat, Pearson took consolation in the fine PNE performance with Championship leaders Brighton next up for Grayson’s men.
“We always knew they were going to cause us problems in the second half,” said the former Manchester United youngster, who is now set to serve a two-game ban after picking up his 10th booking of the season.
“It was just how well we could defend against it.
“Both goals were slightly deflected, especially the second one was tough to take.
“There were positives. It’s probably the best we’ve played at Deepdale this season I would have thought.
“We’ve just got to take that into next week now.”