Josh Harrop eyes further starts after long spell on PNE bench

Josh Harrop is looking to nail down a regular berth in the Preston team on the back of an eye-catching performance against Middlesbrough.

The 22-year-old made his first start for more than two months in the 3-2 defeat to Boro at Deepdale on Monday.

Preston midfielder Josh Harrop

Preston midfielder Josh Harrop

In between, Harrop had come off the bench in 10 games, the impact he had made of late persuading PNE boss Alex Neil to play him from the off on New Year’s Day.

He played behind Jordan Hugill in the No.10 role, one which both the player and his manager think is his strongest position.

Harrop said: “It had been a while since I had started so it was nice to start this time.

“I’ve been coming off the bench, playing 30 minutes or so, doing a job that way.

“In the last few games as a substitute, I felt that I had done all right and the gaffer told me that I had deserved my chance to start.

“I could feel it a bit in my legs in the first half that I hadn’t started for a while – I had to get used to the pace of the game at that stage of it.

“But I got the momentum and thought I did well.

“I want to kick on from this, I want to be playing more games.”

Like all of his team-mates, Harrop reflected on the Boro defeat with a deep sense of frustration.

Having fallen behind early on, North End levelled straight from the re-start through 
Callum Robinson.

Jordan Hugill then headed them in front, an advantage they could have stretched had Tom Barkhuizen’s header not hit the bar before half-time.

In the second half, two goals in eight minutes saw the contest swing the way of the visitors.

Said Harrop: “I didn’t think we deserved to lose the game.

“We dominated possession and everything else in the first half – we played really well.

“Middlesbrough came out a different team in the second half, put crosses into the box and took their chances.

“We’d had so many chances in the first half, their keeper made saves and we hit the bar.

“It is those chances which you have to take.

“Maybe in the second half we sat off Middlesbrough a bit and didn’t press them as much as we should.”

North End manager Neil felt Harrop had earned a start and was pleased with what the former Manchester United youngster had produced.

Neil said: “Josh had made a major impact as a sub of late and I felt it was the right time for him to come in.

“He is a No.10, we have played him off the left in some games but that was more out of necessity.

“Josh will be a top quality player for us, he showed on Monday what a good player he is. He’s had to be patient but that is paying off.”