PNE skipper won’t tire of visiting Pirelli

Tom Clarke sets off to celebrate after scoring for PNE at Burton on Saturday
Tom Clarke sets off to celebrate after scoring for PNE at Burton on Saturday

Preston skipper Tom Clarke has developed a real liking for Burton’s Pirelli Stadium.

The defender has scored in both of PNE’s visits this year to the Brewers’ home.

He broke the deadlock with a close-range finish in the 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Back in January, it was his goal which earned North End a 1-0 win.

In both games, Clarke played at right-back.

PNE boss Alex Neil said he chose to play Clarke in the full-back role this time in a bid to ‘guard the wide areas’ and nullify Burton’s threat down the left.

The week before against Queens Park Rangers, Clarke had played in his accustomed position at centre-half before being substituted in a tactical switch at the interval.

Neil said: “It was fantastic for him to score the first goal.

“Last season he scored the winner against Burton at the back stick.

“Unfortunately Tom had a tight calf which meant he had to come off, however it was a great 80 minutes to get under his belt.

“Tom is a centre-back but we played him at right-back on Saturday.

“I thought we had to guard the wide areas and be staunch in our defending, so Tom was ideal for that.

“He gave us the size and presence down that side of the pitch and I thought he did well.”

The use of Clarke at right-back allowed Ben Davies and Paul Huntington to continue their partnership at the heart of the back four.

The pair stood firm against plenty of first-half pressure from Burton.

Said Neil: “I thought Ben, in particular, did very well.

“Lucas Akins went on to Ben because Hunts is bigger.

“Ben more than fought his corner in the first half when Burton were putting a lot of balls in.

“He was very dominant, which was great, I was delighted with all of my players.

“Saturday’s game was a bit of a battle to start with but what I didn’t want was it to be a fight for the whole game.

“That is why we made the changes we did, we wanted to stretch the game, make the pitch big and get on the ball.

“We did that for the last 30 minutes and got our rewards.

“In that spell we created a lot of chances.

“Tom Barkhuizen put one wide when he should have scored, Paul Gallagher and Callum Robinson both hit the post, while Daryl Horgan had a one-on-one.

“We could have won by a bigger margin.”