Exclusive Tom Clarke Preston North End column: First goal of my ‘masked’ era was an overdue one

Referee Stephen Martin prepares to book Millwall midfielder Jed Wallace
Referee Stephen Martin prepares to book Millwall midfielder Jed Wallace

Scoring at Millwall last week was a nice feeling and the goal was one which was long overdue.

I hadn’t found the net since getting the winner at Cardiff in December 2017 , so I was due one.

For the goal, it was a great ball in from Paul Gallagher which came across the box.

I actually saw it quite late but I got half a yard on my marker to get my head on it.

Fortunately it was quite a powerful connection and enough to get it past their goalkeeper who was at full-stretch.

That was the second of our three goals in the 3-1 win and I think all three came at key points.

Andrew Hughes’ volley settled us down in the first three or four minutes, then my goal extended the lead with about a quarter of an hour gone.

Sean Maguire’s goal gave us that three-goal lead going into half-time which put us out of sight.

To be 3-0 up in the first half at Millwall is something which needs applauding.

As is often said, The Den is traditionally a hard place to go for visiting teams.

The crowd are on you from when you first come out for the warm-up and that is something you have to handle.

When we scored our goals, you could hear their fans voicing their opinions which was obviously a big help for us.

We were good from the kick-off, we had a chance even before Hughesy scored.

I thought we looked a threat from minute one with Sean’s movement and the leg power of Tom Barkhuizen and Alan Browne.

In the second half we knew to expect pressure from Millwall.

It was disappointing to concede a goal and not get the clean sheet but we then held out quite comfortably to get the win.

I mentioned Gally setting my goal up and he claimed assists for the other two.

I’ve watched back his pass for Sean a few times and what a ball that was.

I put in a block tackle and the ball ended-up travelling quite a distance.

The ball came down to Gally at speed but the way with one touch he took the pace off it and put it through to Sean was tremendous.

Sean made a great run to meet it and the finish over the keeper was very good.

I suppose my goal was a bit of a landmark moment for me in that it was my first wearing a mask!

As you know, I broke my nose badly when I clashed heads with Jordan Hugill in the Middlesbrough game last November.

I’ve got an appointment with the specialist coming up about repairing my nose.

We are talking a plastic surgery job because there’s a lot of damage.

The last time I saw the specialist, they put a camera up and it was quite a mess.

As well as the fracture of the bone, there’s a lot of twisted cartilage which isn’t nice.

I had a cold when they put the camera in so maybe that made things look a bit more of a mess than it actually is, with all the swelling.

Hopefully the operation which I need can be put off until the end of the season but I’ll have to see what the specialist says.

With plastic surgery needed, my wife has already been looking through the catalogue for a nose which would best suit me!

Without going into too much detail, they will have to cut in from the side and do the repair to the bone and the cartilage that way.

I’ve got used to wearing the mask now, it’s part of my kit in matches and training.

It can be a bit annoying at times and move if the ball catches on it.

However, it protects my nose well and if I didn’t wear it and I got caught again, I could do a lot of damage.

The mask is made from carbon fibre and is a decent piece of kit – very solid.

After getting the injury, I had my head scanned and measured in Leeds.

Those measurements were then sent to the Czech Republic where the mask was made.

I suppose I should start wearing it away from the pitch – I might get a double seat to myself on the train if I do.

My wife wants me to wear it around the house to make sure the kids behave too.

This weekend we will be looking to extend our good form in the Championship when we face Bristol City at Deepdale.

City are a good team and up there in the play-off race which is something we want to be involved in.

Josh Brownhill and Bailey Wright are two lads who we obviously know from their time here.

They have both done well there.