Paul Gallagher thinks that Preston North End have been too easy to play against in their opening two Championship games and need to rectify that for the visit of Derby County to Deepdale.
The Lilywhites were beaten 1-0 at Reading and 2-1 by Fulham, turning the pressure up a notch to put points on the board against the Rams.
In between, there was the 1-0 victory over Hartlepool United in the EFL Cup – but it is the league which is the main concern.
Midfielder Gallagher told the Evening Post: “We were disappointing in the first half on Saturday against Fulham, we weren’t at our best.
“It seems to take a goal from the other team to wake us up when we should be going at it right from the start.
“I can’t put my finger on why that has happened in the first two league games.
“But it is not good enough and we know that as a team, we have to start better.
“This is a tough division, a lot of investment is going on with squads with people spending a lot of money.
“We need to get back to what we were doing last season, being hard to play against.
“I think we are a bit too easy to play against at the minute, at times on Saturday, Fulham were going through us like a knife through better.
“Saying that, we created chances ourselves and while this might be picking the bones out of it, we could have got a draw from the game.
“The goal which Jermaine Beckford had disallowed near the end was a mile onside.
“I reacted angrily to that and stupidly got myself booked but that is the emotion of the game.
“It was a clear goal and that mistake cost us a point.”
The experienced Gallagher believes a bit more awareness is needed in certain situations to get PNE up and running in the Championship.
“Sometimes you have to be more streetwise,” he said.
“For Fulham’s second goal, I think it was Greg Cunningham trying to stop Tom Cairney and maybe he should have jumped on his back, take one for the team.
“They had broken on us after we’d tried to put a ball into their box – we probably left ourselves a bit open as we pushed for a goal.
“Reading used a corner routine against us which we should have been more switched on to.
“We don’t want to leave it too much longer to get going in terms of points on the board.
“Straight away last season we were up and running.
“You can get left behind, that happened to Bolton last year.
“Maybe we need a bit of luck to go our way, the first goal on Saturday didn’t go our way.
“Alan Browne went to clear the ball and it spun off their striker across to the other guy who scored.
“We’ve got to be better all over the pitch as a team and fortunately we have a game coming up to try and put things right.
“The quicker we can put some points on the board, the more you can relax and play your football.
“A win or two breeds some confidence.
“We know as a squad that we have to get back to being hard to beat.”
Gallagher has played in a couple of different midfield positions so far this term.
At Reading, he started in the deep-sitting ‘quarter-back’ role in a 3-5-2 system.
When Preston boss Simon Grayson switched to 4-4-2 at the interval and subsequently played that way against Hartlepool and Fulham, Gallagher was given a wider role.
“I started in the deeper role to try and dictate the play, like I did last season, said Gallagher.
“The gaffer switched things round at half-time to get us being a bit more positive.
“We played that way in the cup and created a lot of chances, even if that was against a League Two team.
“Against Fulham, we did okay but not as well as the other night.
“When we went back to three in midfield later in the game, we started to dominate the midfield and get into it.
“Last season we played a lot of 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 and did really well with it.”
The clash with Derby will see Gallagher face his former manager Nigel Pearson.
It was Pearson who signed Gallagher for Leicester from Blackburn in August 2009.
This summer, Pearson was appointed Rams manager in succession to Darren Wassall.
Said Gallagher: “If you look at his record over the years, Nigel Pearson has got teams in and around the play-offs or taken them up.
“He signed me for Leicester so I know him quite well.
“His teams are hard working, that is what he demands.
“If you want a manager who will whip players into shape, Nigel is who you want.
“I found him fine to work with, other people will have their own opinion but he was great with me.
“He knows how to handle people and isn’t afraid of dealing with big names and egos in the dressing room.
“We know this will be a tough game, Derby have a squad full of players who they paid a lot of money for.
“But we have to concentrate on ourselves.
“Last season, we got some good results against the bigger sides.”