Dec enjoying being PNE’s No.1 in race for top six

North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd has started the last nine games
North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd has started the last nine games

Declan Rudd says playing behind the Preston back four is a ‘pleasure’ as they push for the top six.

The keeper has started the last nine games after injury restricted much of the first half of the season to a watching brief on his part.

North End’s defence has protected him well in the main but there have been occasions when Rudd has been called into action to make saves.

One crucial stop came late in Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over Bristol City when he kept out a Bobby Reid volley at point-blank range.

“They had one chance which the lad hit at me and luckily enough I got in the way of it,” said Rudd.

“But the amount of times the lads in front of me stopped chances by putting their bodies in the way and making blocks, was testimony to them.

“It is a pleasure to play behind these lads, both the defence and the team as a whole.

“Our attacking players press the ball to start with and so the opposition are having to work hard to get near our box.”

One of the players to have performed so well in front of Rudd has been Ben Davies.

They were team-mates when Rudd was first at the club in 2013 – Davies had just broken into the team when Rudd joined on loan from Norwich.

“From when I was last here Ben has come on so much,” said Rudd.

“I call him the Rolls Royce because he makes the game look so easy.

“Ben never looks like he has to put too much effort in because he is so good with the ball at his feet.

“Like any other of our defenders though, he can stick his head in the way of things.

“He reads the game so well and I think Ben is a top defender and a top footballer. The way he has come on is a credit.

“He has worked hard and gone away on loan to get games – now he’s come back and is a vital part of the team here.

“Ben has shown how the loan system can work for young players and the only problem now is that loans can only be done in a window.

“That doesn’t give the young lads the chance to get a month here or a month there to get a game.

“Last season I played against Ben when he was at Fleetwood and I was on loan at Charlton.

“He was one of the best players on the pitch that day.”

Rudd and his Preston team-mates face Fulham at Deepdale on Saturday, the clash coming on the back of two victories in four days against Bolton and Bristol City.

When Sean Maguire made it 3-1 at the Macron Stadium in stoppage time. Rudd raced the full length of the pitch to join in the celebrations.

The keeper looks back on that mad dash with a smile on his face.

Rudd said: “I’d never done that before and it was out of relief .

“We needed a win at Bolton after a couple of draws and the Ipswich defeat.

“Once the third goal went in and there only a couple of minutes left, I knew we had won and it was such a relief.

“I found myself halfway down the pitch before I 
realised what was going on and it was too late to turn back!

“After what Sean had been through, being out for all that time, what he did by scoring twice was special.

“I wanted to celebrate with him and it was just one of those moments.

“It just shows what commitment there is in our squad, everyone was there celebrating.

“What it means to us is how it looks – we put so much into everything we do, day in, day out.”

Rudd’s reference to the return of Maguire is a sign of how highly the striker is thought of within the PNE squad.

After netting twice at Bolton, the Irishman hit the winner against City in midweek.

Considering he was on the pitch for less than half-an-hour in both games, it is not a bad return.

Said Rudd: “I know what he has been through and where his head has been at.

“Injuries are part and parcel of football and we help one another along.

“The form Sean has shown these last couple of games, he was beginning to show just before he got the injury.

“Every credit to him that he has carried on where he left off.

“When he first came here it was just a case of him getting used to the league – once he did that he became one of our most influential players.

“Sean gives us another option up there now and the other lads have done so well.

“Callum Robinson has stepped into Jordan Hugill’s role, playing down the middle on his own.

“He’s been one of our best players and worked really hard.”

Rudd hailed the spirit shown by PNE in bouncing straight back from letting in the equaliser against Bristol City to go down the other end of net a winner within two minutes.

The 27-year-old said: “When we went in 1-0 at half-time we talked about the next goal in the game being very important.

“Unfortunately it was Bristol City who got it but it shows where we are as a group that within a couple of minutes we were back in front.

“Sean scored and that was important because we knew a win would see us catch Bristol City up.

“In the closing stages they threw everything at us and as a team I thought we defended well.”

Hot on the heels of the win against Bristol City is Fulham’s visit.

The Londoners are the form team of the division and in with a chance of an automatic promotion slot, let alone a play-off place.

They play an expansive style of football, one which PNE dealt with well in the 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage in October.

“In my opinion, and a lot of people think the same, Fulham are one of the best footballing teams in the Championship,” said Rudd.

“They play a very nice brand of football and are clearly in good form.

“But we are in good form too and we know that on our day, we can out-do anyone.

“We are still seen as the underdogs in this league, no one seems to want to talk about us.

“That is fine, we will keep going quietly about our business.”