Do not ‘cross’ Preston North End keeper Jordan Pickford!
That is the warning to all attackers in the Championship after the young goalkeeper recorded his third successive clean sheet at Rotherham United on Tuesday night.
The 21-year-old, who joined North End on loan from Premier League Sunderland a week before the new season, could not have asked for a better start to his career with the Lilywhites.
His competitive debut against Middlesbrough at Deepdale on the opening weekend of the campaign passed without any real alarm.
But he was called into action on Saturday at MK Dons – producing a couple of important saves – to help his new club register its first win back in the Championship.
He has conceded just one goal – against Crewe Alexandra in the Capital One Cup at Gresty Road – in four games and has particularly caught the eye with the way he commands his area.
Whether it is by catching or punching, Pickford appears totally comfortable leaving his goal-line and attacking the ball when crosses are launched into his penalty area.
His skills were none more so evident than at the New York Stadium as PNE’s defence had to withstand an aerial bombardment for a period in the second half by Steve Evans’ side.
Pickford was calmness personified and it is apparent that his composure under pressure is a major factor behind North End’s all-round defensive solidity at the moment.
And the young shot-stopper revealed coming for crosses is just second nature to him.
“Obviously keepers have to be brave,” Pickford said. “But that is just in my nature since I was very young.
“It’s something I like to do. If I can come out and get the ball, then that is what I will do.
“It’s a very important part of the job.”
Pickford devotes a number of hours in training to collecting crosses, working closely with goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly.
“We work on crosses during the week – we get everything covered with Kells,” Pickford said.
“But like I say, as a keeper it is something you need to do and if you don’t do it you’re not going to be helping the team out.”
Pickford, who hails from Washington in the North East, revealed he is really settling into life in the North West.
He said: “It’s good. Everything is going well.
“I’ve settled in well with the lads. The Rotherham game was my fifth game for the club – I had one in pre-season as well, which helped me massively.
“Now it is really good for me that we are getting results.”
The North End No.1 is also pleased with the way he is working with the three centre-backs – Tom Clarke, Paul Huntington and Bailey Wright – in front of him, admitting the formation is a new experience for him.
“It’s a bit different – I’ve not really played in a 3-5-2 formation too often in the past,” he said. “It’s something I need to learn about. I need to learn about different shapes around me.
“I need to keep commanding my area and talking to them.
“I feel like it is something that I have been doing since coming to the club.”