“It was a fantastic day": Sean Maguire targets another memorable afternoon for Preston North End at Bolton

Sean Maguire heads to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday looking for more of the same.

Last March’s trip down the M61 was a memorable one for the Preston North End forward.

Sean Maguire celebrates last season's Gentry Day win at Bolton

Sean Maguire celebrates last season's Gentry Day win at Bolton

Not only did the 24-year-old return after four months out through injury but his two goals helped PNE come from behind for a 3-1 Gentry Day win against their near neighbours.

While fond memories will count for little in the heat of the derby battle this weekend, Maguire admits it is a day he will never forget.

“It was a year or so ago but it feels like yesterday,” said the Republic of Ireland international.

“It was a fantastic day and a fantastic moment for me.

Maguire in action against Derby last time out on Friday night

Maguire in action against Derby last time out on Friday night

“I’d been out for four months and came back and scored two goals and carried that on with five in four games. That whole month was brilliant.

“It was a bit of a surprise to me that I was even on the bench.

“I’d only had 45 minutes in a bounce game before then.

“The gaffer had me in the squad, though, and it was 1-1 going into the last half-an-hour and I came on, got two goals and it couldn’t have gone any better.

Maguire celebrates with goalscorer Brad Potts at Stoke

Maguire celebrates with goalscorer Brad Potts at Stoke

“But all that means nothing come Saturday because they are fighting for their lives, second bottom of the table.

“As for us, we’re 12 points above the relegation zone 10 points shy of the play-offs so for the very first time this season we’re looking up the table rather than down.

“We’re going there on the back of a good four-game unbeaten run and looking to get the three points.”

North End fans will travel to the University of Bolton Stadium both in good spirits and good numbers.

Maguire with fellow Irishman Alan Browne

Maguire with fellow Irishman Alan Browne

With more than 4,500 having sold out the away end, PNE will be backed by even more supporters than they were for last year’s win and their highest following of this campaign.

They will be hoping for more of what they saw in the impressive wins at both Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City.

“There’s no better matchday feeling than a derby,” said Maguire.

“Last season was unbelievable, it was Gentry Day as well which just made it extra special.

“I’ve seen there are 4,500 Preston fans going to the game this weekend which makes a real difference.

“I know it’s an old cliché to say they will be the 12th man but they really are.

“The last two away games they’ve been unbelievable.

“It’s not easy getting down to London on a Saturday morning like they did for QPR and then at Stoke they travelled in their thousands as well.

“They’ve made a real difference and hopefully they can bring their voices on Saturday and help us get another three points on the road.”

While 11 months ago Maguire saw his first action after a long-term injury, this time around he is further along in the recovery process.

The former Cork City man, who has made 13 appearances for club and country this season, is building up his match fitness with a first goal of the campaign next on the agenda.

“I feel great to be honest,” Maguire said. “At the moment it’s about clocking up more match minutes and keeping this unbeaten run going.

“Derby on Friday was my third start in a row which was the first time I’d done that this season, so it would be good to make it four this weekend.

“I still feel a couple of games away from being where I was last season in terms of fitness but that will only come with more games and I’m sure my first goal will come as well.

“That would be a nice little reward for me. But I’m not too bothered about that at the moment.

“It’s about winning games and staying fit but there would be no better place to get off the mark this season than in a derby and I’m sure if I get an opportunity then I’ll put it away.”

The big thing for PNE and one of their star men is for Maguire to stay injury-free in the long term after such an impressive start to life at Deepdale.

The versatile forward still managed 10 goals in his first season with the Lilywhites despite his injuries and had hoped to kick on again.

That has not been the case but slowly but surely Maguire is getting back to where he wants to be.

“To even just come in, day in, day out, and know you’re training it does a great deal for your confidence,” he said.

“There’s no worse place than being down in that gym when everyone else is outside training.

“It’s great to be back involved and have that matchday feeling.

“I’ve not really changed the way I train to be honest. I’ve always trained the way I play. I give 100 per cent in training and sometimes the gaffer tells me to slow down a bit because he’s looking out for me I suppose.

“Before training I spend half-an-hour doing activation stuff in my glutes and hamstrings and that’s been a massive help for me over the last couple of weeks.

“That’s working really well at the moment so I’m going to keep it up for the time being.”

Maguire’s increasing confidence reflects that of Alex Neil’s improving side as a whole.

They head to Bolton four games unbeaten and looking to build some momentum that would move them into the right half of the table sooner rather than later.

“Ahead of the game against Derby on Friday there was a lot of belief around the dressing room,” said North End’s No.24.

“A few new signings have come in during January and hit the ground running and we’re really starting to gel.

“It’s a great headache for the manager to have with all these players in contention.

“I have no doubts that if we’d have had a fully fit squad we’d be in the top six without a doubt.

“It is what it is and injuries are part and parcel of football.

“A lot of people are back now though and we’ll be looking to end the season strongly.”