Tom wants to bring home derby spoils for PNE

PNE skipper 'Tom Clarke will be in action against Burnley on Friday night
PNE skipper 'Tom Clarke will be in action against Burnley on Friday night
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Tom Clarke wants Preston North End to transfer their good away form in derby games to the Deepdale clash with Burnley.

PNE beat the Clarets 2-0 at Turf Moor in December and have since won at Bolton and Blackburn.

The Friday night clash has huge connotations at the top of the Championship.

Burnley are chasing automatic promotion and a victory would see them steal a march on Middlesbrough and Brighton.

North End are in no mood to hand out any favours though, with local pride at stake, so too an aim to finish in the division’s top 10.

“It would mean a great deal to everyone here if we could win this game,” said PNE skipper Clarke.

“We have had a quick turn-around after the Birmingham game on Tuesday night but we are fresh and raring to go.

“In December we beat Burnley at their place, that was a great game and a great atmosphere.

“If I remember rightly, we didn’t start that game too well but we held on, kept things solid and in the second half, scored two goals on the break.

“Our performance in the second half was fully deserving of the three points.

“We have done well against the local sides this season and will be looking to do that again.

“Burnley is a massive test for us, the teams up at the top are there on merit.

“You look at Andre Gray, who is the Championship’s player of the year and has scored a lot of goals.

“Gray being named player of the year was well deserved – he has genuine pace and knows where the back of the net is.

“He has played a big part in Burnley being where they are.

“Hopefully we can keep him quiet and get the result which we want.”

Clarke played a big part in the reverse fixture in December, helping shut the Clarets out and claiming an assist for Preston’s first goal that afternoon.

“For the goal, I managed to nick the ball off Sam Vokes on the halfway line and the ball went to Will Keane, who ran through to score,” said the 28-year-old.

“Daniel Johnson got the second and we finished that game very strongly.

“Generally since I have been here, we have done well in the local derby games – long may that continue.”

North End go into the game buoyed by a stirring comeback in Tuesday night’s visit to Birmingham.

They battled back from being 2-0 down to draw 2-2, Alan Browne and Greg Cunningham scoring late on.

Clarke set up Browne’s 73rd-minute goal, having been pushed into a wing-back role.

“The way we started was disappointing and we gave away two sloppy goals,” said Clarke.

“However, the character the lads showed to get back into the game was great.

“In the second half we looked like the only team who were pushing to win the game.

“We had the disappointment of losing Marnick Vermijl to injury early in the game.

“Paul Huntington came on and I moved across to right-back, with us changing to wing-backs in the second half.

“Playing as wing-back allowed me to get forward more than I normally do.

“I’m a defender first and foremost but it was nice to contribute in the other half and set up Browney’s goal.

“That point could turn out to be a big one in our aim to finish the season strongly.

“We want to finish well – it has been a brilliant season and we want to be as high up the table as possible.

“Winning our last three game is the aim, starting with Burnley.”

The Birmingham game was Clarke’s first involvement since suffering a head injury in the 2-1 defeat to Fulham a fortnight before.

He clashed heads with team-mate Calum Woods early in that game and was taken off suffering from concussion.

Clarke missed the visit to Middlesbrough on doctor’s orders and was then an unused substitute for the MK Dons game.

Said Clarke: “I don’t like being injured and missing game but these days no risks are taken with head injuries.

“There is a ruling that you have to have so many days off afterwards.

“It was gutting to miss a game but the staff were looking after me properly.

“It is the second time this season that I have had a bang on the head.

“Speaking to the staff here, it is down to the way I head the ball. I tend to go in side-on.

“Calum Woods left his head on me when we went for the same ball and I came off worse.

“When the physio came on to treat me, he was asking questions to test how I was.

“I was adamant that I was answering them right but clearly I wasn’t.

“They were asking whether it was the first or second half and what the score was at that stage.

“I thought it was 0-0 when in fact Fulham had scored.

“It was probably wishful thinking that they hadn’t scored. I didn’t have a clue what was going on so I came off.

“I’m fine now after a bit of rest and the doctor gave me the all-clear to play again.

“It was good to be back playing on Tuesday night and I want to be involved in the last three games.”