Hat-trick hero Paul Gallagher hopes that Preston North End have found a clinical edge to their game just in time for the play-offs.
Gallagher netted a second-half treble in yesterday’s 5-2 victory over Shrewsbury Town at Deepdale.
Lee Holmes and Bailey Wright put the Lilywhites into a 2-0 lead, with the visitors pulling one back just before the interval through Shaun Miller.
The second period was the cue for Gallagher to find the net for the first time since late February, as he volleyed home a Stuart Beavon centre and then scored from the spot.
A Luke Summerfield header at the other end pulled the scoreline back to 4-2, before Gallagher stroked home a beauty of a free-kick to complete his hat-trick.
Gallagher, on loan from Leicester, told the Evening Post: “I’ve not been on the scoresheet as often as I would have liked, so these three goals were welcome.
“We showed good character and created a lot of chances, and we are starting to put them away.
“I’m enjoying myself. The manager wants us to express ourselves, and going into the play-offs you want players to be confident.
“We want to finish as high as we can to get the second leg at home and this win will hopefully help us do that.
“For my first goal, Stuart Beavon’s cross picked me out perfectly. Sometimes you can have too much time but I managed to get a good contact.
“The second was a penalty. I’ve scored plenty in my career but never had the chance to take one here.
“Our regular taker Joe Garner wasn’t on the pitch so I got my opportunity.
“Shrewsbury’s keeper Chris Weale was at Leicester with me and knows my technique, so I had to change it a bit.
“With the free-kick, I have done that past Chris a few times in training.
“It was nice to get the three goals but most importantly it was about keeping the momentum going.”
North End boss Simon Grayson was delighted with most aspects of the win which lifted them to fourth place.
Grayson said: “To score five goals, get another three points and make it four consecutive home victories is pleasing for us.
“It was a hot day. We passed the ball okay and got the first two goals but we just needed to up the tempo a bit more in that final third to find the killer instinct.
“We gave them a lifeline with a poor goal which we conceded just before half-time but we came out for the second half and had a right go at it again - we were worthy winners.
“No disrespect to Shrewsbury but if we do one or two things we did today against better opposition in the play-offs, we will get punished.
“That is perhaps being a bit unkind on the players but we are working towards being perfectionists if possible.
“The driving influence from midfield was Alan Browne who was worthy of a man of the match award.
“Gally got his hat-trick and played well but Alan drove us on from midfield and kept the ball, running past people.”