Delight for Paul Huntington as he joins Preston North End's exclusive 300 club

Paul Huntington’s single complaint about his 300th appearance in a Preston North End shirt was how long it went on for.

Thursday, 21st January 2021, 4:45 pm

The central defender reached the milestone in Wednesday night’s 1-0 win over Birmingham City at St Andrew’s.

You would say the night was fitting for Huntington to join PNE’s exclusive 300 club – its membership numbers 26.

The game was played in rain and sleet, the pitch was heavy and it needed some resolute defending in the latter stages to see the job through.

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Preston North End defender Paul Huntington jumps with Birmingham striker Scott Hogan on his 300th PNE appearance

Huntington, 33, rose to the occasion and ticked off another clean sheet.

It seemed that referee Tony Harrington liked the conditions, so much in fact that he kept the game going for seven minutes beyond the 90.

Four minutes extra, or five at a push, you would not have blinked at.

However, seven did seem on the excessive side and PNE manager Alex Neil made that very point to fourth official Jeremy Simpson – doing it very vocally and with a touch of industrial language.

Paul Huntington in the thick of the action in PNE's 1-0 win at Birmingham

Similar thoughts were running through the mind of Huntington on the pitch when seven minutes went up on the board.

Huntington told the Lancashire Post: “The conditions weren’t great, they got worse as the game went on.

“They then plucked out seven added minutes and we were all thinking, ‘Where did he get that from’?

“We held on though, and I thought we deserved to win the game because of the chances we created in the second half.

“Probably we should have had a couple of goals instead of just the one but the main thing was that we won the game.

“It was a great way to cap off my 300th game for Preston and hopefully there are many more to come.

Huntington’s 300 games have come over eight-and-a-half years, this his ninth season at Deepdale.

There have been times when he has had to be North End’s comeback kid, having fallen down the pecking order.

He hardly kicked a ball between January and October 2014, for example, then returned to the side and ended up as player of the year with a winners’ medal at Wembley around his neck.

Last season he was restricted to just 10 games but already this term the Cumbrian Cannavaro has played 19 times – his 16 league appearances all having come since the end of October.

Huntington said: “I’ve hopefully got a few more years in the game before I have to start looking back at appearance numbers.

“I will get my shirt from the game signed by the other lads as a memento.

“At the end, Paul Gallagher came over to say well done and a few of the lads knew it was a big game for me. The result was the big thing – winning is the king in this business and we managed to do that.

“I think I’m pushing 19 or 20 appearances now this season which is really pleasing. The full squad is needed these days so you have to be ready.”

North End return to action on Sunday lunchtime when they take on Reading in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Deepdale (12.30pm).

After their exploits in the West Midlands on Wednesday, the extra day’s break will be welcome.

Reflecting on the win, Huntington said: “We have a lot of players with good pace in the side, so the goal Scotty Sinclair scored is one we are capable of.

“We had a few more chances before the goal, Brad Potts hit the post and had a shot well saved, Scotty had a chance.

“The lads will have been disappointed at the time those didn’t go in but we got there in the end.

“Our focus had been on starting the game better than we had done at Bristol City, and I thought we did that.

“Scoring the first goal was crucial and once it went in, I felt quite comfortable about winning the game.

“There were a few things towards the end which we had to deal with but you have to expect that to happen.”

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