Tom Barkhuizen’s surprise at being called up for his first Preston North End start didn’t show as he scored at Fulham on his full Lilywhites debut.
The former Morecambe winger broke in behind and kept his cool to give the visitors some hope in the second half on Gentry Day at Craven Cottage.
But the Cottagers were too good and put a big dent in PNE’s play-off hopes with a 3-1 win.
“I found I was playing at twenty to two,” said Barkhuizen, who had previously made five substitute appearances.
“We did shape on Wednesday and Geads (Aiden McGeady) had a bit of a knock and I just thought I was filling in.
“But I definitely wasn’t complaining when I got told.
“The gaffer told me before the game I was playing on merit.
“He said I’d come on and affected games and he wanted me do the same again.
“The first half was really difficult though because they were on top.
“But that’s football, you lose games every now and then and we haven’t lost many recently, it’s just one of those things.”
The finish was one any out and out striker would have been proud of, the 23-year-old firing low beyond David Button on 68 minutes to bring the game back to 2-1.
“It’s just instinct,” said Barkhuizen.
“I’ve run through one-on-one quite a few times when there’s no-one near you and there’s a lot more pressure on.
“When you’ve just got to take it out of your feet and get a shot off it’s a lot easier.
“We were on top in the game at that point but we conceded the third and that was basically game over.”
There was little argument with the final outcome, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side running North End ragged at times.
“I was playing right back in the first half, I was stood next to Greg Cunningham for a lot of it,” said Barkhuizen.
“We knew that if you gave them half a yard they’re good enough to pass it around and that’s what happened for a couple of the goals.
“They’re probably the best team we’ve played since I’ve been here.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they go on and make it into the play-offs.”
Simon Grayson’s side are now nine points shy of the play-off places in ninth and will look to hit back against the side immediately below them in the Championship table when they travel to Derby on Tuesday night.
“We’re really good at bouncing back,” Barkhuizen said.
“There’s still 11 games to go. The season’s not over yet.
“Stranger things have happened and we just need to keep pushing and keep going and see where we are at the end of the season.”