Joe Rafferty says this season has been his breakthrough campaign at Preston North End

In among the frustration and disappointment of Preston North End missing out on a play-off place, Joe Rafferty can take a small amount of consolation in the fact this has been his breakthrough season at Deepdale.

By Dave Seddon
Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 4:45 pm

The Lilywhites head to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City in their final game of a campaign which kicked off almost a year ago.

Neither side can make the play-offs and it is something of a dead rubber – PNE can finish as high as seventh or as low as 11th.

From a personal point of view, Rafferty can reflect on a pretty decent first full season in Preston colours.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Joe Rafferty in action for Preston against Brentford

He arrived from Rochdale in January 2019 and had a two-month wait for his debut. Rafferty made a handful of appearances towards the end of last season, however 2019/20 has been more fruitful for him.

He has played 28 games in the Championship and four more in the cup competitions.

Certainly pre-lockdown, the majority of those were in the left-back position – one he steadily familiarised himself with and indeed caught the eye in.

After a couple of games sat in the stand after the resumption, Rafferty forced his way into the team and has made the right-back slot his own – the position he was signed to play in.

Preston full-back Joe Rafferty makes a challenge against Derby

Rafferty said: “When I first came here it took me a while to get used to the pace. Even in training it took me some time to get used to the pace.

“After a while I felt okay and I’ve felt good playing at this level.

“This season I’ve played a lot of games which I’m pleased about.

“I didn’t come here just to be one of the numbers and just be a lad who comes in and trains every day.

“It’s good to play in the games and good to work under this manager who is someone who can improve you.”

Rafferty insists that North End will have their professional heads on when they face Bristol City, despite nothing resting on the result.

In the Championship there is no sliding scale of financial reward for league position unlike in the Premier League.

Said Rafferty: “Ourselves and Bristol City are similar clubs in a way. We are miles away in terms of distance but we always seem to be quite close in the league.

“They’ve got Dean Holden in caretaker charge, who used to be at Rochdale with me. That was when I first went to Spotland – I was a young lad and he was one of the older pros.”

Once the boots are put away after the trip to Bristol City, it won’t be long before the PNE squad are reporting in at Springfields again for pre-season training.

Rafferty said: “I think we are off for two-and-a-half or three weeks and then it is back to training.

“Whether I’ll fit in a holiday, I don’t know.

"There might not be too many places you can get too. It might be Formby beach or Crosby beach for me!"