Skipper John rues O’s draw

Heavy challenge: North End skipper John Welsh in the thick of the action against Leyton Orient
Heavy challenge: North End skipper John Welsh in the thick of the action against Leyton Orient
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Skipper John Welsh admitted to a deep sense of regret that Preston could not record a victory in memory of Sir Tom Finney.

North End shared a 1-1 draw with promotion rivals Leyton Orient at Deepdale, a penalty from Joe Garner pulling them level after Mathieu Baudry had put the Londoners ahead.

Sir Tom has passed away the day before at the age of 91, and the build-up to the game saw the football family pay its tributes to a player regarded as being one of the world’s greatest.

Welsh said: “We were all devastated that we couldn’t win it for Sir Tom Finney.

“We felt that we should have got a bit more out of the game and at the end in the dressing room there was a lot of disappointment.”

News of Sir Tom’s passing broke on Friday night, with tributes constantly pouring in from then on.

“I got a text off someone who lives locally to tell me the news, and it was so sad to hear,” said Welsh.

“He is not only a legend at Preston North End and in this city, but he is a football legend everywhere.

“Sir Tom should inspire everyone – he went to the war, he trained to be a plumber and played football to the highest standard.

“There is a lot of history at the club and when you look around the ground you see him everywhere.

“We recognised before the game what sort of occasion it was going to be.

“As soon as the whistle went we got our professional heads on and tried to do a job.

“That job was to try and win the game which sadly we could not quite manage.

“In the first half we weren’t really at it, and the gaffer asked us for a reaction.

“We gave him that in the second half, got the goal back through Joe’s penalty and tried to get a second goal.

“Against a good side who were well organised, we kept going but couldn’t quite get another.”

All the Preston players wore shirts with Finney’s name on the back above their number.

Midfielder Welsh said: “It was brilliant to have his name on our backs.

“A couple of lads came into the dressing room before the game and didn’t know where they were sitting because they were used to seeing their own name on the shirts!

“It was a brilliant touch from the club and I’m sure Sir Tom’s family and the Preston fans appreciated it.

“For us, it was a very proud moment to represent his name through the club.

“You only have to look at all the tributes made to him, they’ve come from some big names, big clubs, the FA and the Football League. That showed you just what Sir Tom meant to people.

“I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but people who did will tell you how humble he was and what a nice man he was.

“If we could get promotion this season, it would be nice to look back and dedicate it to Sir Tom.”

North End might have been celebrating victory but for a bad miss by Kevin Davies in the last eight minutes.

He was picked out in the six-yard box by a cross from Scott Wiseman but put his diving header wide.

“Davo was really disappointed and hardly spoke in the dressing room afterwards,” said Welsh.

“He tried to apologise but there was no need to because he has been brilliant for us.”