Preston’s Friday night clash with Bolton gave Paul Gallagher the rare opportunity of partnering ‘pocket rocket’ Ben Pearson in the centre of midfield.
Time on the pitch has been in short supply for Gallagher this season due to injury and illness but he was handed only his second league start in the televised 0-0 draw.
He was paired next to Pearson in a midfield two, part of his job on the night being to ‘police’ his engine-room partner.
“Ben has got all that energy and you have to try and keep him with you because he wants to get involved in everything,” Gallagher told the Post.
“Sometimes you have to tell him to keep his head and not be shouting at the referee. We don’t want him to get cheap bookings because he is such an important player for us.
“When I’m on the pitch I’ll be telling the ref that is how Ben plays – he just wants to win like all of us.
“He doesn’t go in to hurt players, he just wants to get the ball and that is what I try and get across to the ref.
“As an experienced player I think I have got a bit of authority to speak with the referee in a nice way.
“You don’t want Ben to get penalised for doing his job and going in to get the ball.
“Ben is small, he’s like a pocket rocket, his hair is flying everywhere and sometimes refs can get the wrong idea of him.
“There is a lot more to his game though, he’s tidy on the ball and passes it around. He is a big player for us and we need him to be available for as many games as possible.”
Pearson collected the man of the match award against Bolton, from both the match sponsors and the Sky pundits.
It was also a decent night’s work from Gallagher in the 75 minutes he managed before his lungs ‘blew up’.
His delivery from set-plays created North End’s best chances. Said Gallagher: “I had not started a game for quite a while so basically I blew up in the second half.
“There were a few of us out there who hadn’t played a lot of football and it caught up with us a bit.
“My legs felt fine, it was more my lungs.
“You can train as much as you want but it is games you need.
“I played 45 minutes of the Aston Villa, then 20 or so minutes at Ipswich. Then the international break came along.”
Gallagher felt that North End should have taken the three points against Bolton, having been on top of the play in the first half.
The 33-year-old said: “We have to be more ruthless than we were when we had some good chances in the first half. Bolton came to sit in and be happy with a draw.
“The first 45 minutes was far better than of late and we should probably have been a few goals ahead.
“But the second half just petered out in the end.
“We were happy with the clean sheet because we’d been shipping a few goals in the last few games.
“Under the lights though, I think we should have beaten Bolton, no disrespect to them.
“They set up to be hard to play against, they are a physical side who have a few experienced players who know the game inside out.
“Before the game we spoke about starting at a good pace because we didn’t want to allow Bolton to grow into the game. We had some good chances, I had one from a corner which Callum Robinson back-heeled to me.
“I had a good first touch but my shot wasn’t as good as I had planned it to be and the keeper saved it with his feet at the near post.
“Tom Barkhuizen had a good header, Hunts squared one across the goal and an Andy Boyle header flew across the face of goal.
“We should have taken one of those chances.
“The draw at least stopped the rot after we had lost four on the bounce.
“You have to start somewhere and this draw at least gives us something to build on.
“Some of us hadn’t played a lot of football and maybe that is why we faded a bit in the second half.
“Calum Woods hasn’t trained since the Villa game because of an injury yet he got through 90 minutes.
“Boyler and Kevin O’Connor have only just come into the team in the last few weeks.
“Stephy Mavididi was a handful up front with his strength and pace.
“Callum Robinson is another who hasn’t played a lot of football.”
A big boost for PNE came in the shape of Tom Clarke’s return to the bench after more than seven months out with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
The club captain was not called into action on the night but Gallagher felt just having him around was a big thing.
“It was great to see Tom back, it gave the players a lift and the supporters too,” said Gallagher.
“He has been out a long time and has worked very hard to get himself fit.
“Tom is a big character in the dressing room, all the lads look up to him.
“He hasn’t played a bounce game yet but as we are down to the bare bones in the defence, Clarkey was needed for the bench.
“Hopefully we will get more of the injured lads back in the next week or so.”