Exclusive Paul Gallagher Preston North End column: Ipswich visit brings back memories of wearing the keeper’s gloves!

Our next game is against Ipswich which brings back some good memories of Preston’s visit to Portman Road back in November.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 4:00 pm
Wearing the Preston goalkeeper's jersey at Ipswich

It was an eventful game for myself, coming off the bench to score a free-kick with my first goal.

Then I ended up going in nets for 20 minutes after Chris Maxwell was sent off and we’d used all three subs.

I can honestly say that since that game, I have not been tempted to pull the gloves on again.

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I’ve not practised my goalkicks or faced a few shots.

You hear about outfield players going in goal when they train, making a save but popping a finger doing so.

So it’s not been worth the risk and I’ve concentrated on my outfield work.

It’s not often you lose your goalkeeper to a red card or an injury and can’t replace him.

At least I can tell the kids and grandkids that I played in goal in a professional game and kept a clean sheet.

From a personal point of view, it was a big game for myself and not just because I went in nets.

Up until then I had started a few games and had a few more coming off the bench.

After what happened at Ipswich, I started the next game at Bristol City, we won that, and I’ve hardly been out of the team since.

I think I started a dozen or so games in a row which was really pleasing.

At Ipswich, the big thing was that we got a point out of it after falling behind. That formed part of the unbeaten run we went on in October and November and helped us recover from the poor start to the season.

The big story from here in the last few days has been Alex Neil signing a new deal and that was nice to hear.

The one thing I know about the manager is that he is honest and enjoys coming into work here.

He has told us that many times and what he has built here is exceptional.

His vision when he came here was to build a squad which could challenge for promotion.

Last year we finished in seventh place, this season we were in a great position prior to the last four games.

When you bear in mind how we started this season and were bottom in October, to get to where we are has been remarkable.

We’ve had key players missing which is difficult for any club.

I know it is easy to say now but I had an inkling that the manager wouldn’t go.

That is just my personal view from the relationship I have with him.

You can see his vision and ambition is to take this club forward.

I’m the oldest player in the squad and the manager likes having that experience around the place.

We have got a very young team with loads of potential and quite a few of the lads have now played two or three years at this level.

You can see those players developing but alongside them you need people like me who have seen there, been there and done it.

I’ve been doing this 15 or 16 years now, the manager knows he can trust myself, Paul Huntington and Tom Clarke to look after the dressing room and look after the younger lads.

That is a good balance to have and the manager really understands that.

Sometimes older players can manage the game a bit better, just have that extra bit of know-how at key times.

Our aim over the next few weeks is to finish the season strongly, starting when we play Ipswich. Despite the last four games, this football 
club is in a great place at the moment.

If we can finish the season strongly, build on that and next season keep players fit, we can be a match for any team in the Championship.

Avoiding injuries is a key thing because having lads missing games has been a big disruption this time.

Look at the consistency of selection we had from when we won 4-1 at Queens Park Rangers in January through to last month, in eight of those games I think the manager only had to make the odd tweak.

Injuries have bitten again since then and we’ve got lads sat on the sidelines.

With this season, you have to look at the bigger picture.

It was frustrating that we didn’t start well but to have risen from 24th to as high as 7th was some going.