Pearson aims to channel anger into PNE play-off push

It will come as no surprise to Preston fans when they hear Ben Pearson admit to being an angry character on the football pitch.

Away from the heat of a Championship battle, he comes across as quiet and rather unassuming.

Preston manager Alex Neil gives instructions to Ben Pearson

Preston manager Alex Neil gives instructions to Ben Pearson

But 32 yellow cards and one red in his 26 months in North End colours paints a different picture.

Pearson thinks it is his will to win which can see him overstep the mark on the discipline front.

The bookings aside, he channels that desire into being the heartbeat of the Lilywhites midfield.

Over the last two years he has emerged as such an important figure to how PNE want to play.

The high tempo and high energy press which Alex Neil wants from his side is something which suits Pearson down to the ground.

“When I’m on the pitch anger seems to take over,” said the 23-year-old in a break in the build-up to the visit to Sunderland this weekend.

“I don’t like losing, that is why.

“If we get beaten in a game on a Saturday I will stress and be down for the next couple of days.

“That is why I put so much into trying to win the game and then I can have a good weekend.

“It is the way I have played all of my life, I give my all.

“I think that off the pitch, people know that I’m a bit more calm.”

Pearson will have to watch his step to avoid more yellow cards over the remaining nine games.

Two more bookings would see him reach 15 for the season, triggering a three-match suspension.

It could also mean an appearance before the FA for a dressing down.

If Preston are to make a big push for the play-offs, they would be better with him in the team than not. Saturday’s visit to the Stadium of Light is key to their top-six bid.

North End have a gap of four points to bridge with Middlesbrough who are in sixth place – Derby are five points better off in fifth.

Losing further ground would make things a great deal more difficult.

They were unlucky to lose to Fulham last week, beaten by a stoppage-time goal at Deepdale.

So at Sunderland, the need to bounce back is huge.

“We went into the game against Fulham believing we could beat them,” said Pearson.

“I certainly thought we could win, I think we all did in the dressing room.

“It was just a shame the way it ended, looking back I thought a draw would have been a fair result.

“We had chances where we could have nicked it and in the end it was them who did that.

“Even with the form Fulham were in and the way they play, we thought we could beat them.

“It wasn’t to be but we have nine games left and we need to win as many of them as possible.

“We have got a good squad here and a good manager who has a way of playing.

“The players buy into that and we are having a good season.

“I think we have still got a good chance of reaching the play-offs.

“There will no doubt be the odd crazy result involving one of the sides around us which could help us.

“We just have to keep plugging away, getting the results and see where that takes us.”

Pearson takes the view that his performances have got better this season under Alex Neil’s watch.

And he thinks that applies to the rest of the North End squad too.

The ex-Manchester United reserve player said: “I don’t think any of the 22 players in the squad or whatever we have got, have stood still this season, we have all improved. That is credit to the manager, his staff and the players themselves.

“We try to improve in every training session and during every game.

“My form has been okay I think, I’ve played well in patches and had quieter patches too.

“On the downside, I’ve had the most injuries this season that I’ve had in my career, that has been a bit tough to take.

“I’m happy enough but there is still lots of room for improvement.

“I just want to be more consistent but what counts the most is the team continuing to play well.”

Saturday’s opponents Sunderland have found the Championship a bit of a culture shock after a 10-year stay in the Premier League came to an end.

They are bottom of the division, five points adrift of safety and closer to six adrift because of their poor goal difference.

But there will be no sense of PNE taking the trip to Wearside lightly.

Said Pearson: “It will be a tough one, these games are probably more tricky than others because you are expected to win.

“Look at Aston Villa on Tuesday night, they lost to Queens Park Rangers when everyone expected the result to be the other way round.

“We will have to be on our game up there, we’ll treat it exactly like we are playing Fulham or Wolves.

“I’m a bit surprised to see Sunderland down at the bottom of the table.

“They struggled in the Premier League for quite a while and didn’t lose too many players after being relegated.

“When they dropped down to this level, maybe it came as a bit of a shock to be playing in a different way – the Championship is a tough division.”

North End take with them to Sunderland a strong away record.

They are a point better off on the road than they are Deepdale, 29 points having been collected on their travels.

Saturday’s aim is to take that haul up to 32.

Pearson is of the view that PNE’s playing style is well suited to away games.

“It is a lot different to last season when we were stronger at home,” said the midfielder.

“Away from home we were poor for part of last season, we won at Burton and then didn’t win again.

“We play a style where we press high and the lads up front have a lot of pace.

“That suits us playing away because the onus is on the home side to attack and keep the ball.

“We can press them and force them into a few mistakes.

“Last week at our place Fulham came to play and that gave us a bit of room.

“It’s when teams sit back that we can struggle to break them down.”