Louis Moult’s EXCLUSIVE Preston North End column: Raring to go against Sheff Utd
It was a big thrill to come off the bench and play in the second half at Reading last week, even if the result did not go the way we would have wanted.
That was my first game in 12 weeks so understandably it felt great to be involved.
My hamstring has been the problem and we’ve not been able to get it quite right until now.
If you remember, when I first signed for Preston from Motherwell I had a little bit of a hamstring injury but I got over that.
It was fine for a long time but then I got a little bit of a tweak in the muscle after the Nottingham Forest game in December.
I missed the win against Millwall the following week and then got back to play at Sheffield Wednesday a few days before Christmas.
Maybe I shouldn’t have played in that one but I was keen to play and we didn’t have too many available strikers at the time.
I tried to put a shift in to help the boys and just after half-time I felt the injury again.
That kept me out until January but I got a week of training done ahead of the Stoke game which was a big one for me, coming from there and having been a Stoke player once.
I’d trained in the week and felt okay but then the day before Stoke, I felt a twinge in the hamstring – nothing much.
The next morning it felt good again and there were no worries from me in the build-up to the game.
But when I went out for the warm-up I could feel a tweak in the hamstring area.
I had to be honest with the manager and he pulled me out of the squad – I had been named on the bench.
I’ll admit that I was a little bit gutted not to have got the opportunity to play at Stoke but that’s life.
It’s behind me now and I’m looking forward to a run of games in the squad.
I’m feeling fit and strong and hopefully I can play my part in the games ahead.
I played 35 minutes at Reading and felt that I made an impact on the game, which is what you want to do as a substitute.
To start with, I was in the frontline and later when Ben Pearson had to go off, I had to drop a bit deeper.
That took my goal threat away – when Ben had been playing I was far higher up the pitch.
To make sure I stay on top of my fitness and help keep the injuries away, I’ve got a strengthening programme to do and ‘pre-hab’ before training starts.
The hamstring is a funny old muscle for footballers, it’s the one you really don’t want to injure but a lot of players do for some reason.
As part of my build-up to full fitness, I’ve played in a couple of bounce games at the training ground.
On Tuesday I played 60 minutes against Salford and got myself a goal, which was pleasing.
However much you do in training, you can’t replicate an 11 -a-side game.
That is why these bounce games are important, it helps with your distances and judgement.
Okay, a bounce game doesn’t replicate a first-team game in that your adrenaline levels are lower, there aren’t any supporters there and there is no pressure on the result.
But it’s still 11 v 11 and you want to win the game, no matter that it is only at the training ground.
These games are a good chance for the lads who have not been starting to impress the manager and raise the sharpness levels. For myself on Tuesday, it was 60 minutes under my belt, a chance to get that bit more sharpness into the legs after my lay-off.
On Saturday we have a huge game against Sheffield United at Deepdale.
It’s massive for both clubs as we have similar aims in mind.
If we are going to get a place in the top six, we need to win games like this and the ones coming up. After the Reading game, we have been very positive this week and focused on what is ahead of us.
We have to have a positive approach to training and the game itself.
I’m not sure many teams will fancy playing us at the moment, even if our good run did end last week.
The way we play is very effective and our workrate is high.
If we can come out of the next three games with a good number of points and still be in touch with the top six, then anything can happen in the last four games.
Everyone at the club wants to be involved in the play-offs and we will be working so hard to try and make that happen.
We’ve got to prove that on the pitch, not just talk about it, and hopefully in the next game we can bounce back from Reading.