Preston North End defender Jordan Storey ready for physical Middlesbrough test in key game in play-off race
Both Jordan Storey and Preston North End as a whole have been on something of a rapid rise in recent months.
The former Exeter City defender has made the jump up from League Two to the Championship look like an easy one since signing a four-year contract at Deepdale last summer.
The 21-year-old has been at the heart of a Lilywhites defence that has gone 10 games unbeaten to close in on the play-off places.
It has been a remarkable 2019 for all involved, none more so than Storey who only broke into the Grecians’ side on a consistent basis 12 months ago.
Having been bottom the table in October, PNE were rank outsiders for a spot in the top six but are now within touching distance of the coveted play-off spots ahead of travelling to Middlesbrough on Wednesday night.
Despite it seemingly having been a ‘free hit’ for Alex Neil’s side in recent weeks, their rising star is determined all their good work will not be squandered in the final 10 matches.
“You can’t think about how well you’ve done over the last 10 games and take your foot off the gas,” said Storey.
“You’ve got to go out there and leave it all on the line.
“One result could jeopardise our play-off push.
“We don’t want to let what we’ve done over the last couple of months go to waste. We’ve played our hearts out.
“To let it slip away in the space of two or three games would be a big disappointment for us. To do what we’ve done in the last 10 games is a real credit to all the players and the manager.
“We’ve been really confident and have just got to stick together and give it our all.
Storey would be forgiven for getting carried away.
By his own admission the central defender thought it would be a season where he would be on the fringes at Deepdale.
It has been far from that, though, Storey set to make his 23rd North End appearance at the Riverside Stadium.
“It’s nice for fans to show their appreciation towards me,” he said.
“Game by game you get more confident and I just want to establish myself and rack up as many games as possible and finish the season strongly.
“For me it’s just about staying in the team really.
“You can’t get ahead of yourself even if you’ve had a few good games.
“You’re only as good as your last game.
“It only takes one bad performance for things to go downhill.
“All the boys are doing extremely well at the moment. The main thing for us is to stay consistent and keep these performances going.
“Knowing that there is real strength in depth at the moment always helps.
“The players on the pitch know if they don’t perform that there is a person more than able to step up and do a job.
"All our focus is on Wednesday night and trying to hopefully get another three points.”
His latest solid display came in the derby win at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Storey and defensive partner Ben Davies key to the 1-0 win at Ewood Park.
It came in front of more than 7,500 travelling fans in East Lancashire, more than the average gate Storey used to play in front of for Exeter.
“Although it wasn’t the prettiest game, we went there and got the job done and did the dirty side of the game well,” said Storey.
“We won our challenges, we competed well and it was a good result.
“We did what we needed to do. As a team we did what was necessary.
“You’ve got to mix it up from time to time, to know when to play and know when to turn it.
“The more games a player plays, you understand when you can play and when it’s not on. Credit to the fans – they turned out in force and sung their hearts out.
“It’s always nice and they were like the 12th man, they were great.
“As a player it’s always brilliant to see that support.”
Next up is a trip to the Riverside Stadium in what has turned into a big game in the play-off race.
The physical threat posed by a Tony Pulis side is something Storey is more than ready for though.
“I’m used to more of a physical battle, with the strikers I faced in League Two,” he said.
“Nearly every week I’d come up against a big, strong striker and it would be a real battle.
“Middlesbrough lost at the weekend against Brentford but they’re a great team.
“We aren’t scared of anyone, though and we know we can get the job done with the form that we’re in.”