PNE will stick together says skipper Clarke

Captain Tom Clarke backed the Preston North End squad to pull together after Jermaine Beckford and Eoin Doyle clashed in their defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

Sunday, 4th December 2016, 3:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:30 pm
Tom Clarke at the end of the game at Hillsborough

The front men nearly came to blows in the 90th minute of the 2-1 defeat as North End looked for a late leveller, apparently disagreeing over Doyle passing to Marnick Vermijl in an attack moments earlier.

Referee Scott Duncan had no hesitation in dismissing both players having already shown a red card to the Owls’ Fernando Forestieri after the striker raised his hands to Ben Pearson midway through the second half.

“It’s a strange one,” said Clarke of the incident that saw his team mates go head-to-head.

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“I was at the other side so I didn’t see what happened.

“I saw the commotion afterwards and it’s something that shouldn’t happen.

“They’ve said their bit and the gaffer (Simon Grayson) said his bit in the dressing room.

“I’ve not seen anything like that before.

“It’s not like us either, we’re a close knit group and all stick together.

“We’ll have a talk and try and clear the air and sort it out that way.”

It was an out of character moment of madness for North End, Grayson’s squad always being hailed as having a great team ethic.

Clarke is confident Saturday is just a blip with PNE having been on an impressive run of form in recent weeks.

“We’ve got a brilliant squad here,” said the skipper.

“Not just the players that are playing, everyone, including those that aren’t on the bench.

“We’ve got a brilliant set of lads, it’s a strange situation.

“We’ll stick together.

“We’re disappointed about what’s happened and with the result but we’ll get back at it because we’ve got some big games coming up.”

As for the game itself, PNE started slowly for the second week running and found themselves behind to Forestieri’s goal after former Preston loanee Adam Reach had miscued his effort.

The visitors improved as the game went on though and Forestieri’s red card, his second against Preston, gave them hope of taking something back across the Pennines.

Steven Fletcher’s penalty, Chris Maxwell having felled Will Buckley, seemingly sealed the points for the Owls however only for Doyle to respond almost immediately with his first touch.

It set up a grandstand finale but all PNE’s efforts came to nothing with the extraordinary finale grabbing the headlines as they slipped to a second defeat in 11 Championship games.

“We came in at half-time and we hadn’t really been at it,” said Clarke.

“They’d got the goal and we needed to be higher up and more up against them.

“We started well in the second half, got on the front foot and they had a man sent off.

“They were dropping off, obviously a man down, we were getting crosses in, having shots and putting their ‘keeper and the back four under pressure.

“Late on I felt there was only going to be one goal and it was going to go our way.

“Then what happened was disappointing.

“The second half was more like us though and we kept on pushing and pushing.

“Now we’ve got to focus on a big game against Blackburn.”