Joe Garner went from playing in a bruising encounter to watching another to celebrate his birthday over the weekend.
The Preston North End striker found himself closely marshalled by Bristol City’s back three during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Deepdale.
I’m always looking to contribute to a game, whether that be goals or assists.
On Sunday in Manchester, Garner was ringside for the WWE Raw tour, watching North End fan Wade Barrett doing his stuff.
Garner was among nine PNE players to have a night out at the wrestling, an enjoyable way to celebrate his 27th birthday.
Now his focus is on the Lilywhites’ home clash with Gillingham as they look to take another big stride along the road to promotion.
Reflecting on the weekend’s draw, Garner said: “It was a bit of a bruising encounter, a tough game to play in.
“It was two very good sides facing each other and I thought a draw was a fair outcome.
“They had two defenders on me which was hard work but that creates space for others.
“We had spoken about that before the game so it was something I expected.
“Jermaine Beckford got our goal on Saturday and he is a top player.
“I think both teams would have been happy with a draw.
“It is another point closer to automatic promotion which is what we all want.
“I think it is going to be tough to catch Bristol City now. I’m not saying we will stop trying to catch them at the top but it will be difficult.
“We will just concentrate on ourselves, keep trying to put points on the board and see where that takes us.
“All we are thinking about now is playing Gillingham and trying to beat them.
“That won’t be an easy game, all the matches in this division are tough,
“You could say Gillingham have no pressure on them because they are mid table and won’t be going up or down.
“But I have never been at a club where the players have said ‘we won’t go out there and give it our all’.
“Gillingham will want to come here to win as they look to finish the season strongly.
“We beat them 1-0 away in October which was a hard game. However, we are up there for a reason and have a good team and squad.
“We will go into the game confident.
“Although there won’t be as big a crowd there against Gillingham than there was for the Bristol City game, the fans have a big part to pay.
“Hopefully they can turn out in good numbers for the last two home games, that can be a massive advantage.
“We want it to be daunting for sides who come to Deepdale.”
By his standards, Garner is going through something of a lean patch in front of goal.
He has not found the net for four games, since scoring in the 1-1 draw at Barnsley on March 21.
Only once before this season has the front man gone that long without scoring.
“I’ll be looking to try and be back among the goals against Gillingham,” said Garner.
“But as long as we are picking up points, it doesn’t really matter who scores.
“I’m always looking to contribute to a game, whether that be goals or assists.”
North End are unbeaten in 14 league games, a run which has taken them into automatic contention.
Garner believes that one of the unsung heroes of the strong run has been midfielder John Welsh.
The 31-year-old has excelled in a ‘ratting’ role in front of the back four, giving the freedom for Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson to play. I think Welshy over the last couple of months has been our best player,” said Garner.
“He doesn’t always get the credit which he deserves but he holds us together in that midfield area.
“You have to have a player like that in the team to do the work which can go unnoticed.
“In the past, Preston have had players like Sean Gregan and Paul McKenna in there doing that job.
“Welshy sometimes doesn’t get the plaudits but people who know about the game can see what he does for us.
“He is a leader both on and off the pitch, he plays like a leader. Welshy is the first to let you know if you are not pulling your weight – every good team needs someone like him.”
Garner’s reputation as being one of the division’s best strikers, has seen him being linked with international honours.
Reports from over the water claim that the Republic of Ireland FA have been checking out his ancestry to see he qualifies for Martin O’Neill’s side.
It has all come a bit out of the blue for Garner who was born and raised in Lancashire and represented England at three age group levels.
Said Garner: “Someone mentioned it to me at the end of last week and that is the first I had heard of it.
“This is not something I have really looked into, I don’t know if there is a family link with grandparents.
“I’ve been over to Ireland for a couple of stag parties but that is about it!
“To be honest, I don’t think there is much in it.”