Exclusive Tom Barkhuizen Preston North End column: Happy memories of my first goal at Craven Cottage
Craven Cottage, home of our opponents Fulham this weekend, provides a reference point in my career – it was the place which saw me score my first ever goal for Preston.
It is almost three years to the day since that strike and although it did not contribute to three points as we lost 3-1, it was a big moment for me.
I arrived at Deepdale in the January transfer window from Morecambe looking to make a big impression.
In the five previous games, I had come off the bench and the gaffer back then, Simon Grayson, decided away to Fulham was the time to throw me in from the start.
I remember the goal v ivdly.
It came in the 68th minute and put us back in the game at 2-1.
Aiden McGeady played a nice ball through to me where I had split the line.
That is something which we had worked on and which is probably still my biggest strength – my movement off the ball.
I managed to latch on to the ball and stick it past the goalkeeper with the outside of my foot.
I guess it was a typical goal that I score and it was great to get my career at Preston off and running.
I think I went on to score another five in the next five games and I have not looked back since.
In the three years since I have played a lot of games – I think I went on to play 80-or so games in a row and have well over 100-plus appearances to my name for the club.
That must show that I am doing something well because the team has done well in that time yet I am still managing to keep my place in the team,
I think I am definitely a much better player nowadays than I was when I first burst onto the scene.
Under the previous manager, we were much more of a counter-attacking team and that in fairness suited my game.
I played up front in a two a lot of the time but under the current gaffer, his attention to detail has made me a much more complete player.
I feel like I have evolved as a player and it is something that I am looking to continue.
I have been pleased with my goal return this season, which currently stands at 11 – it is my best tally in the Championship and there are plenty of games still to go.
It will be great to get my 12th this weekend at Craven Cottage.
It is a chance to close the gap on third-placed Fulham to just one point, if we could get the win.
Our record there has not been too bad in recent seasons.
I think we have had two draws there and one of them was a 96th-minute equaliser for the home side.
In many respects, they have been a little hit and miss, like us, this season.
They are a good passing team and it’s going to be a very intense game.
There’s a lot riding on it. Fulham will still feel that they have a chance of catching the top two and will be looking to make home advantage count.
But if we can get the win then we can really squeeze things up in the play-off positions.