Tom Clarke was left with mixed emotions after Preston’s defeat to Reading put a serious dent in their play-off hopes.
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Mo Barrow’s early header proved enough as the Royals prevailed 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium despite the visitors dominating the second half.
A third straight defeat leaves PNE, 11th in the table, six points shy of the top six with five games to play.
On a personal level it was a rare outing for Clarke however as the club captain replaced Ben Davies for the second half in Berkshire as he made his first appearance since the win over Hull at Deepdale on February 3.
“It’s been one of those seasons for me,” said the defender, who missed the first part of the campaign with a ruptured Achilles tendon before picking up a knee problem.
“It’s nice to get back out there. It was good to get back in the team a while back and then a little niggle saw me drop out again.
“It’s been a little bit frustrating with niggles here and there.
“It was nice to get in and contribute as much as can. It’s good to be around the team and motivate them and do my job when called upon.
“But it’s another missed opportunity for us.”
After drifting into the position they finished in the last two seasons, Clarke insists North End will be putting everything into the final five games, starting when Leeds visit Deepdale on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to keep going,” the skipper said.
“We’ve all got to stick together and work hard and go again. We’ve got a game again on Tuesday against Leeds which will be another tough one.
“But we’ve got to stay as positive as we can and keep going. We’ve got ourselves into this position, we’ve worked hard for it, and we don’t want it to fizzle out.
“We’ve got five games now to put everything we can in to.”
PNE will be hoping things click in the final third before the end of the season, plenty of possession again coming to nothing at Reading.
“The first half was disappointing, we didn’t feel like we could get into the game and get on the front foot but in the second half I don’t think we can do any more,” Clarke said.
“We pressed and pressed and looked for that goal to kick on and it just wouldn’t come.
“That’s the frustrating part, we did everything but score.
“We’ve got to start better than we did and take to the game to them.
“It gives them something to hold onto but we threw everything at them in the second half.”