Preston North End defender Ben Davies challenges himself to kick on again after Championship player of the month nomination

Ben Davies is hoping his Championship player of the month nomination is just the start.

The defender has starred as PNE have risen into play-off contention in 2019, leading to this week’s recognition.

Ben Davies in action against Bristol City last time out

Ben Davies in action against Bristol City last time out

The 23-year-old has gone from strength from strength since Alex Neil took charge at Deepdale in July 2017 and is now a mainstay of the Lilywhites’ emerging side.

The challenge going forwards is to kick on again as North End target a late run at the top six, something Davies insists he is ready to do.

“I had a chat in training a few weeks ago with the manager and he said that I must be happy with what’s been happening,” said the Barrow-born stopper, who was nominated alongside Neil.

“I am but I still feel there’s more to come. I feel in training and in the games I’m improving and I don’t see why that should stop.

Davies has formed a formidable partnership with Jordan Storey in 2019

Davies has formed a formidable partnership with Jordan Storey in 2019

“It’s good to get some recognition. I didn’t expect it at all and it was a nice surprise when I saw it.

“I think it just shows what a good month we’ve had that we have a player and a manager on the list.

“As a team and individually I think we’ve improved as the season’s gone on.

“I feel more comfortable and confident now than I did at the start of the season.

The defender heads home his second PNE goal against Norwich

The defender heads home his second PNE goal against Norwich

“I’m not too sure why but I’m glad that it has happened.

“The whole team is enjoying going out on the pitch at the moment.

“I’m really happy with how the last month or two has gone but the most important month is coming up now.

“We need to kick on and keep doing well.”

Davies has earned praise for both his defensive capabilities and his work with the ball at his feet.

The left-footer has formed a formidable partnership with Jordan Storey since the turn of the year with the pair encouraged to pass out from the back.

“I like to show my talent in other ways rather than just be someone that just heads it and kicks it,” Davies said.

“I like to try and bring the ball down and play and I think it helps the team.

“But we’ve obviously got to defend.

“Declan Rudd reminds me of that all the time. The last thing he says before we go out every week is ‘defend first’.

“When the ball’s in and around the box you’ve got to deal with it and get the ball away from danger, which is obviously your goal.

“When I’ve got time, though, I like to try and control the ball and pass it out.”

A fine February also saw Davies score just his second PNE goal, the No.6 heading home a Paul

Gallagher free-kick less than two minutes into the 3-1 victory over promotion-chasing Norwich City at Deepdale.

It came 13 months after his first for North End, the defender on target in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham in January 2018.

“It’s only my third goal ever – I got one when I was on loan at Fleetwood as well,” said Davies, who has made 30 appearances for the Lilywhites this season.

“It’s not a great record, one every 60 games, I think.

“It was great to see it go in but I’ve said before as defenders we should maybe get on the end of more with Gally’s delivery.

“He’s pin-point every week and it was a perfect flight, I read it well and attacked it.

“Our first job is obviously defending but there are 10 outfield players that can score so there’s no reason why we can’t score, and if we can chip in then it helps the team and it’s a good personal feeling when it does go in.”