Paul Gallagher admitted to having mixed feelings from Preston’s Caraboa Cup exit to Accrington Stanley.
While very disappointed to have crashed out to League Two opposition on Tuesday, one solace for the midfielder was a valuable 90 minutes of action under his belt.
Gallagher missed a chunk of the pre-season programme because of a tight hamstring.
He only featured in two of the friendly games, so playing the full game at Accrington in addition to a 15-minute run as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday was a big boost.
“From my point of view the one positive from the other night was playing 90 minutes,” Gallagher told the Post.
“I need to play to get back my match fitness, so being out there for the full game was great.
“A tight hamstring limited my training in pre-season but I’ve been back for the last week or so, enjoying training.
“I’d got a bit of time on the pitch on the opening day so the Accrington game built on that.
“Saying that, the result and our performance wasn’t good enough on Tuesday night.
“We need to bounce back at Leeds this weekend and that will be tough.
“As a team, we need to play as we did last week against Sheffield Wednesday.”
Gallagher’s inclusion was among nine changes made to the starting XI by Alex Neil.
North End twice equalised through Jordan Hugill, the second of those goals coming in the 91st minute.
But Accrington netted a 93rd minute winner to cause a cup upset.
Reflecting on events at the Crown Ground, Gallagher said: “We played in dribs and drabs really.
“Sometimes we passed the ball well, sometimes we gave it away too often.
“With the players we had out on the pitch, we should have controlled the game.
“We knew Accrington would pose a threat, they roll their sleeves up and are strong at set-pieces.
“When we got it back to 2-2 in stoppage-time, we should have pushed on from there.
“Usually when you get a late equaliser like that, you get some extra energy and heads drop on the other side.
“Instead, we didn’t manage the game well and gave away a corner which led to their third.”
Hugill’s double earned him praise from Gallagher.
Like Gallagher, the striker had missed part of pre-season and has been playing catch-up with his fitness.
“When you’ve got Jordan in your team, you play to his strengths,” said Gallagher.
“He runs in behind, he is physical and gets on the end of things.
“We starved him of service in the first half but he went and took his two goals well.”