A happy birthday for Tom Clarke back in Preston North End’s starting XI

Tom Clarke applauds the PNE fans at the end of the game
Tom Clarke applauds the PNE fans at the end of the game

Tom Clarke is delighted to be able to put his injury troubles behind him as he returned to the Preston North End starting line up on Saturday.

The PNE captain was selected from the off, on his 32nd birthday, for the first time since August 21 and played the full 90 minutes of the 0-0 draw at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Despite not getting the result he wanted, Clarke was just delighted that his long road to recovery was over.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “It’s been a difficult period for myself, always coming back and breaking down with it.

“It was just a case of taking time with it, not masking it with injections and getting back quicker than I needed to be.

“It was a case of thinking of myself and being right and being able to give my 100 per cent when I am out there.

“I feel that I am back there now.”

Only Preston have taken more points at home this season than Cardiff, the Bluebirds winning seven of their of their 11 games, losing just once.

The PNE skipper knew it would be a tough test, but in the end felt his side should have had more.

“Coming into the game we knew Cardiff were in a good run of form so we knew it was going to be a difficult game,” he said.

“We saw the way the game panned out and the chances we created, I thought we played really well.

“To not take one of those chances is frustrating but we can be pleased with our performance and the chances we are creating.

“That’s good and hopefully we can take that into the next game.”

In one of the surprises of the day, North End’s tough tackling defender was booked after 35 minutes for simulation. It is something that Preston’s No.5 was able to laugh about after the game, though he might not live it down.

Clarke said:“I’m getting a lot of texts about the dive. I did anticipate a touch and they’re saying I’ve never seen a centre-half dive before.

“I don’t even think I was in the box to be honest, I don’t know where I was – I got a nosebleed.

“I lost a bit of consciousness I think, I just anticipated the touch and unfortunately it didn’t come.”