Preston North End's leading scorer turns his attention to derby clash with Blackpool
Emil Riis is excited by the prospect of experiencing Preston North End’s derby with Blackpool for the first time.
The Lilywhites head to Bloomfield Road on Saturday for the first time in almost 12 years.
Danish striker couldn’t have asked for a better preparation, having scored PNE’s winner against Coventry City on Wednesday night with a belting finish.
That was his ninth goal of the season – five of them in the league – and another on the Fylde coast this weekend would be most welcome.
Riis knows what derby football is all about but he accepts that North End’s visit to Blackpool is the special one for fans.
Back home in Denmark, he had some derby joy playing for Randers FC – the club from which PNE signed him for £1.2m last year.
Riis said: “When I was at Randers, the derby was against AGF – they are from Aarhus, about 20 miles away.
“One of the games was a 2-0 win and I scored the first goal. That was definitely a big one.
“We didn’t get many sell-outs but that was one of the times we did, it is a big rivalry.
“I’m looking forward to playing against Blackpool and experiencing what it is all about.
“The fans and the staff have been telling us how big a game it is and how important it is.
“On Wednesday we had a good win, that was good to get after quite a lot of games without one.
“Hopefully we can go to Blackpool and get another win to go on a run.”
Riis’ goal against Coventry hit the back of the net like a rocket.
Picked out by Alan Browne’s quickly-taken free-kick, the 23-year-old striker cut into the box and hammered a shot over the Sky Blues goalkeeper into the roof of the net.
Said Riis: “I saw Alan looking up wanting to take the free-kick early.
“I was pretty much free on that side of the box and when the ball came to me I saw their guy come across to try and cover.
“I took a step inside and just laced it as hard as I could. I didn’t really think too much about it.
“Luckily it went in, at first I thought it had hit the side-netting. It felt great to get the goal and the most important thing was that we won the game.”
It’s a little more than 12 months since Riis joined PNE, getting a second taste of English football having been at Derby as a youngster.
His arrival came at a strange time for football and society in general, the world in a grip of the Covid pandemic.
Riis didn’t see a single PNE fan in a stadium last season, with grounds off limits to the public.
He scored three goals, two in the league and one in the FA Cup.
So to have reached the latter stages of October this year with nine goals to his name, is decent enough going.
Said Riis: “I’m pleased with how my form has been and hopefully I can keep that going.
“Frankie McAvoy has shown his belief in me this season which is a big part of how I’ve done.
“I’m more confident now with him having given me a chance in the team.
“I feel fitter and sharper than last season because the more you play, the more fitness you get.
“Some of my goals have come later in games when defences were a bit tired, so I’m pleased my fitness has held up.
“When I first came in last year, I thought I played really well to start with but I needed that time to settle in.
“I’ve done that, found my place in the squad and I know my surroundings.”
PNE’s visit to Blackpool is a quick turnaround, with both teams having played on Wednesday.
When midweek games are on a Tuesday, players normally get Wednesday off and then have two days’ training ahead of Saturday.
Thursday was all about recovery for the players, with Friday when the main tactical work will be done.
Riis said: “The recovery is all about getting the right amount of food and resting properly. We are used to the schedule.”
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