Ryan Ledson knows victory at Leeds on Tuesday night would be just the tonic that Preston North End need.
The League Cup may not be the Lilywhites’ principal focus this season but after back-to-back defeats in the Championship, knocking out the early leaders in the second-round tie would be a real boost for all at Deepdale.
After the trip to Elland Road comes the return to the bread and butter of the Championship, when Bolton Wanderers visit Deepdale on Saturday in what looks like an increasingly big game before the international break.
Midfielder Ledson, who made his first league start for PNE in the 2-0 defeat at Derby last time out, insists there is no doom and gloom after a frustrating week on the road.
“We’ve just go to be positive,” said the 21-year-old summer signing from Oxford.
“On the back of two away defeats we’ve got to go to Leeds with our heads up and try and get a win.
“With football you always get an opportunity to put things right and hopefully we’ll get a good result and then pick up three points at home to Bolton.
“A week in football is like a lifetime, everything can change with a good result or two.
“We’ve got an opportunity now to progress in the cup and then that will give us confidence going into Saturday.
“We’re five games in and a good cup run could give everyone a lift.
“Even the lads who haven’t been playing so much get the chance to come in and do well.
“We can’t dwell on what’s gone.”
With Paul Gallagher suspended and Alan Browne injured, Ledson played alongside Ben Pearson in the middle of midfield at Pride Park and came away with mixed emotions.
“I enjoyed it,” said the former England youth international.
“Derby is obviously a tough place to go and the result wasn’t the best.
“On a personal note I was happy to make my first start though.
“The gameplan was to press them high and win the ball back but when we got in the final third we just needed to be a bit cuter with the ball and maybe get shots off quicker and earlier.
“It’s just the key moments that have cost us.
“If you look at the two goals we conceded at Derby one is a set-piece, which is tough to take.
“If we just shore-up a bit more I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
While Ledson enjoys the combative nature of PNE’s play, he insists he should not be compared to North End’s destroyer-in-chief Pearson, who has become one of the best midfield enforcers outside the Premier League in recent seasons.
Ledson insists he has more of an eye for events in the final third than his more experienced team-mate.
“That’s my game, I love to get up against people and win the ball back high up the pitch,” he said after being a key figure in the first half at Derby. “Some people have compared my game to Ben’s but I think he’s a lot more defensive than me.
“I like to win the ball back high up the pitch and then carry on the attack and try and get in the box.
“I’ve got a bit more a licence to get forwards but if the gaffer wants to have two defensive midfield players in, I can do that job as well.”
Pearson and Ledson are just two of the midfield talents Alex Neil has at his disposal.
There is last year’s player of the year Browne, Daniel Johnson recently signed a new contract and Gallagher is showing no signs of slowing down.
The latter has been a massive influence on former Everton youngster Ledson already, even while out of the side after his elbow on Stoke’s Joe Allen earlier this month resulted in a ban.
“Gally’s massive in the changing room,” said Ledson.
“His experience is great. Even when he’s been suspended he’s been at the game and in the changing room giving us advice.
“You take it all on board because he’s a top professional.
“I was told before I came here that it was a good dressing room to come into, and there are some top lads here and I’m really enjoying my time so far.
“It’s healthy competition. When you’ve got the kind of squad we’ve got when you get the opportunity you’ve got to try and take it.”
Whoever gets the nod at Leeds, as two sides likely to show plenty of changes go head to head, Ledson believes PNE cannot be too worried about the reputation of their hosts under new boss Marcelo Bielsa.
“They have started really well and have got a good squad,” he said.
“But so have we. There’s nothing to be frightened of.
“We’ve just go to go there, play our own game, not worry about the opposition and just focus on ourselves.”