Preston North End goalkeeper's memory of dramatic debut against Leeds United after red card for Jordan Pickford

A wave of the red card from referee Gavin Ward was the cue for the biggest moment so far of Mathew Hudson’s football career

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 9:00 am

The 17-year-old was sat on the bench with his fellow Preston North End substitutes when Jordan Pickford came out of his box to get to a through ball ahead of Leeds United striker Chris Wood.

He used his shoulder to knock it clear but 21,000 Leeds fans inside Elland Road howled for handball and Mr Ward agreed with them by sending-off the future England keeper who was on loan with PNE.

As Pickford trudged to the dressing room protesting his innocence – North End used video evidence to get the red card overturned on appeal – Hudson got his tracksuit off, pulled on his gloves and came on as sub for the sacrificed John Welsh.

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Mathew Hudson gathers the ball during Preston North End's Championship clash against Leeds United at Elland Road in December 2015

This all happened with just 30 minutes played, leaving Hudson as the last line of defence for an hour. No Leeds player beat him that afternoon, unfortunately Alan Brown headed into his own net trying to clear a corner and 10-man Preston went down to a 1-0 defeat.

"What an experience that was,” Hudson told the Lancashire Post as he cast his mind back to December 2015.

"I’d travelled with the team to Leeds but didn’t expect to be involved because Chris Kirkland was usually on the bench as cover for Jordan.

"Kirky was ill on the day so I was named on the bench. Looking back it was nerve-wracking because of my age and the fact Leeds was quite a scary place to play.

Jordan Pickford challenges Leeds United striker Chris Woods which led to his red card

"I’d never experienced anything like that, yet there I was on the pitch at Elland Road playing a Championship game.

"Probably I didn’t have time to be too nervous because it all happened so quickly, one minute I was sat on the bench, the next I was running on to the pitch.

"Leeds obviously got a free-kick for when Jordan was sent-off and that led to a corner. I managed to catch the corner and that gave me the confidence.

"On the day we were actually quite unlucky, there was the own goal but other than that we defended well.

Mathew Hudson warms-up ahead of Preston North End's friendly at Wigan Athletic in July 2021

"Although we lost it was great to be part of it.

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"My involvement with the first-team had started before that, Alan Kelly was goalkeeper coach and Jack Cudworth was with him.

"Kels brought me up from the academy to work with the first team squad.

Mathew Hudson ahead of Preston North End's FA Cup clash with Manchester United at Deepdale in February 2015 - he was aged 16 at the time

"We played Sheffield United in the FA Cup in January 2015 and I was on the bench for the first time.

"Sam Johnstone was on loan with us and was the first-choice keeper but he had played in the FA Cup for Doncaster in an earlier. That meant Thorsten Stuckmann started the game and I was on the bench.

"It was the same for the replay which we won and then against Manchester United in the next round. I was 16 at the time, quite an experience.”

Hudson playing at Leeds proved to be his only competitive appearance in North End’s first-team.

His 10 years at Deepdale as man and boy, came to an end last week when he was among 13 senior players released ahead of their contracts ending on June 30.

There’s no bitterness from Hudson about that, just a sense of frustration that there weren’t further first-team opportunities.

The Southport-born player sat on the bench plenty of times and travelled with the squad frequently just in case a late injury cropped-up.

Such is the life of a third-choice keeper and now the 23-year-old wants to step-up and challenge to be first-choice somewhere.

Hudson, who was PNE’s scholar of the year in 2016, said: “What I can takeaway from Preston is that I have worked with some superb goalkeepers and coaches.

"Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Declan Rudd, Chris Maxwell, Daniel Iversen, they were all excellent. Dec was amazing with me off the pitch, giving me lots of advice.

"Then I think of the keeper coaches, Kels, Jack Cudworth, Jonathan Gould, Dean Kiely and now Mike Pollitt. I’d like to give a special mention to Polly who has helped me a lot with my frustration at not being in the squad.

"He kept me going, put on extra training sessions, kept me fit and ready, he’s been really good to me.

"For the last season-and-a-half, Preston have been blessed with such a superb keeper in Daniel Iversen. The player of the year awards speak for themselves, they show how good he’s been.

"He made so many fantastic saves and it got to the point where you just expected him to make them. Dan is a really top lad, a brilliant goalkeeper and it’s been great to train with him.”

Hudson had a couple of spells away from PNE on loan, notably at Bury in the 2018/19 season and for a month or so with Bamber Bridge this campaign.

Now he wants to put down fresh roots and establish himself as a senior keeper.

"I didn’t get a lot of game time through no fault of my own really,” said Hudson.

"There were times when I wanted to go out on loan but we didn’t have enough keepers for me to do that.

"A few years ago I was able to go for Bury because we had Michael Crowe as a third-choice. I would have liked to have gone out and played more games but it wasn’t to be.”