Josh Harrop is hoping his next 90 minutes will be a little easier on the body than his last full game.
The 23-year-old played the entire match – and scored – last Wednesday as North End defeated Stoke City 3-1 in the Championship.
It was the attacking midfielder’s first start since returning from rupturing his cruciate knee ligament almost a year ago to the day.
After his fine display against the Potters, PNE boss Alex Neil took him out of the firing line for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
But the likelihood is that Harrop will return for the visit of fellow Championship side Hull City to Deepdale this evening in the second round of the League Cup.
The former Manchester United ace got his first piece of action this season in the last round, when he scored once more as North End swept aside Bradford City at Valley Parade.
“I am definitely hoping the next 90 minutes will be a little bit easier,” said Harrop.
“I’m looking to blow a few cobwebs off and my fitness will improve.
“The last 15 minutes against Stoke, my legs were cramping up a bit – I could feel it.
“But as you play more games, that goes.
“I think in the Championship, the last sort of 30 minutes, the game becomes open and that will probably suit me.”
Harrop revealed that the last 12 months have been a tough time – and there were times when he was so low, he could not face leaving the house
“There are so many ups and downs when you go through an injury like that,” he said. “When I first did it, it was a proper down stage.
“It was worst I have ever been. I was proper depressed, I didn’t go out of the house.
“But you get past that and you move forward.
“You start seeing the bigger picture and benefits of the work that you’re putting in, in the gym.
“It is a hard time when you’re out for so long. You watch the games and you get frustrated, but to be back now is great and to get a couple of goals as well.”
When a footballer suffers a injury such as Harrop, it is usually after the operation to repair the ligament which is the most difficult period.
He said: “The night I did it, I was just walking around thinking, ‘I’ll be all right’.
“Then when you have the surgery, it’s a lot different – you have to learn how to walk again.
“You’re sat in the house doing nothing 24/7. Everybody is feeling sorry for you, asking you if you’re all right.
“You think, ‘I don’t really want to be asked, I just want to get on with it’.
“I am over it now.”
Unfortunate in suffering the serious injury, Harrop was fortunate in another way as he had a team-mate, who was going through the same process at the exact same time.
Billy Bodin suffered a similar injury in the final game of pre-season last year and the pair became training buddies during their rehabilitation.
It was fitting that both scored against Stoke, and Harrop admitted he took as much pleasure out of Bodin scoring as he did his own goal.
“Luckily I had Billy with me – my right-hand man,” he said. “If I didn’t have him, I don’t know where I would have been. I remember coming in some days and I could see that Billy was not in the mood or he wasn’t happy.
“I would try to help him get through the work. If he was missing sets in the gym, I would tell the physio, he has missed a couple of sets.
“He would be fuming with me, but he would get the work done.
“It’s paid off for him, he’s had a great pre-season and he got his goal against Stoke as well.
“When I see Billy doing well, I am happy because I have spent so much time with him.
“So when I see him doing well, it gives me a good feeling.
“He will be the same, when he sees me scoring, it will give him a good feeling too.”
Harrop’s goal against Stoke was not the cleanest of strikes, but he was not too fussed about that.
“A goal’s a goal,” he said. “It does not matter how they go in, they all count.”
Harrop also showed that he has lost none of his competitive edge,.
He went flying into a few tackles and ended up going into he referee’s notebook.
“ I can throw myself about a bit,” he said.
“I am not the biggest, but I’m like a little angry man sometimes.
“I don’t mind going in for a little tackle every now and then.”