Declan Rudd’s 45 minutes of action in Preston’s friendly at Bamber Bridge might not have been his biggest moment in football but it was significant to the goalkeeper.
The 27-year-old produced a couple of saves and got his first action of the summer in the bag in the 7-0 win.
Contrast that to 12 months ago when he lasted barely five minutes of the same fixture and was sidelined for almost half a season with an injury.
“It went better than last year, that’s for sure,” Rudd told the Post as he looked back on the opening pre-season game.
“Last summer I limped off at Bamber Bridge after five minutes and didn’t play again for quite a while.
“Being back out there after the summer break was good.
“It was a chance to sample that matchday feeling again, go through your preparation, do the things you do during the season.
“I got called into action a couple of times, there was one shot which went through Tom Clarke which I had to save.
“Clarkey normally blocks those so I’ll have to have a word with him!
“After a tough few days of training, all the lads were pleased to get half a game and we will look forward to the next one this weekend.”
A year ago, the thigh injury which Rudd picked up against Brig – the recurrence of an old problem – kept him out until November.
He then had to wait until the end of January to force his way off the bench and into the team.
To try and make sure he is fighting fit to compete with Chris Maxwell from the word go this summer, Rudd put in the work during the holidays.
Said Rudd: “After the end of last season, I had a week off doing nothing.
“But then I did three or four weights sessions every week to get my strength up and keep my thigh muscles strong.
“I felt good coming back for pre-season but we’ve still been put through the wringer every day since.”
After finishing one place outside the play-offs in May, North End’s aim in 2018/19 is to go higher.
Rudd accepts that is no foregone conclusion and it has to be earned.
“Every footballer at this stage of the build-up gets asked about what their aims are,” said the ex-Norwich man.
“The answer is to look to get better, improve on where you finished last season.
“That is a hard task, it won’t be handed to you on a plate.
“But I think we are more than capable of doing that.
“We gave it a good go last season and hopefully we can push on this year.
“Our approach will be to stay level-headed, work hard and not get carried away.
“We aren’t a squad who will get ahead of ourselves – we didn’t do that last season.”