One of the features of Preston North End’s upturn in fortunes has been the emerging defensive partnership between Ben Davies and Jordan Storey.
The pair have impressed at the heart of the backline in recent weeks, the 0-0 draw against Derby County making it back-to-back clean sheets for Alex Neil’s side.
The form of Davies, 23, and Storey, 21, has got PNE fans excited about what their defence might look like for years to come.
They are quickly becoming the first choice for Neil at the back, Paul Huntington missing out on the squad all together against the Rams as Tom Clarke returned to the bench, the skipper having featured at right back more often that not this season.
And with Davies and Storey having played just a handful of times together, the senior partner is confident they will only go from strength to strength.
“Jordan’s only played about 30 games, full stop,” said Davies, named man of the match in the Derby stalemate.
“We’ve only played four or five times together and it will take time.
“We’re keeping clean sheets while we’re learning each other’s games which is good.
“I just feel like I can trust him on his side and he can trust me on my side.
“We can do our individual jobs and if can get that togetherness as a unit then that will help us even more.
“We’re doing quite well and we work well together.
“That’s two clean sheets in a row and we only conceded one at QPR before that.
“It’s good and we’re heading in the right direction.”
The team as a whole is also on the up, PNE coming within a whisker of a third straight Championship win against Derby in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Despite frustrations over the scoreline it was another positive performance and Neil’s men are now four unbeaten in the league.
“We definitely wanted to win it,” said Davies.
“In my mind and in everyone else’s there was no time in the match where we thought we were happy with the point.
“The first half was quite even and then in the second the gaffer changed it.
“He put Alan Browne and Brad Potts in as two No.10s and it just changed the whole game to be honest.
“They can run all day those two, they’ve got some engine on them.
“It suits us quite well and we dominated the game from that change and kept creating chances.
“They just put some good blocks in and defended the box quite well to be fair and the ‘keeper made a couple of saves.”
All North End lacked in the final third on Friday night was a bit of luck.
At the other end, Davies was determined to make sure that while it might not have been three points, it was at least one to keep the recent momentum going.
The night wasn’t without defensive scares, Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson twice hitting the woodwork in the first half.
“We were disappointed, we had 20-odd shots and you’re just hoping one takes a deflection and goes in or something like that,” said Davies.
“Or it needs to fall to someone and they can lash it home but it just didn’t.
“During our best spell in the second half I had a quick word with Jordan and said ‘we’ve got to make sure we do our job’ because we didn’t want them going up the other end and nicking one that they didn’t really deserve.
“They had a few shots, Wilson can certainly hit it.
“They were always a danger but we defended quite well, kept switched on and in the second half I can’t really remember too many chances, if any.”
The Derby draw saw PNE boss Neil name the same side for the third game in a row.
It’s a remarkable turnaround from having to chop and change with regularity during a season which has been blighted by injury after injury.
For Davies, the start to the calendar year demonstrates what this emerging Lilywhites side is capable of.
“We all deserve it, we’re all playing quite well,” said the Barrow-born defender.
“We know when we’ve got our players fit that we’re a good side.
“We’ve just had too many injuries which have disrupted the team a lot.
“There have been other factors, players out of form and things like that.
“But I feel like now we’ve hit a bit of form, we’re playing quite well and we just need to try and keep it going and keep everyone fit.
“We know that we’re a match for anyone in the league.
“We could have won again but we didn’t and we’ll move on to the next game.”