Exclusive Sean Maguire PNE column
It is probably an understatement to say that the last few days have been good, with me coming back from injury and scoring against Bolton and Bristol City.
The feeling of scoring twice at Bolton I thought would be hard to beat but, if anything, the goal on Tuesday gave me more satisfaction.
That was probably due to the fact we were playing a Bristol City side who are one of our rivals for the play-offs.
While it wasn’t a defining game, I did feel that even had we drawn against them it would have left us with a lot to do in terms of trying to get into the top six. Winning it took a little bit of pressure off us and closed the gap on the play-off places.
I felt confident when I went through to score against Bristol City.
Once I got past their last defender I just focused on slotting it past the keeper and I was pleased with the finish.
Every credit to DJ for the through ball, he volleyed it forward almost and the pace on the ball gave me the chance to chase it.
Even though I had to cover quite a bit of ground running through, the finish was well inside the box.
If you look at my record, I have probably only scored one or two outside the box in my career.
At Bolton last week I was closer in – for the first it was just a case of getting to the near post and connecting with a great ball in from Callum Robinson.
For the second, the ball fell to me on the edge of the six-yard box after good work from Josh Harrop.
The celebrations were a bit different between the two games.
After the first at Bolton I took my shirt off in all the emotion of the occasion but for the second I was so tired I could hardly move.
I had thought about the knee slide but Bolton’s pitch was a bit dry so I didn’t fancy doing that.
We’d had a bit of rain at Deepdale in midweek so I chanced the knee-slide.
I regretted that a bit on Wednesday morning when I had grazes on my knees!
At the moment it is a case of a gradual return, not too much too soon.
I played 45 minutes of the bounce game at Burnley last week to get me ready for the Bolton match.
In both league games I came on at roughly the same time, playing the final 25 minutes and whatever the ref added on in stoppages.
I felt pretty good in both games, after all the work in the gym recovering from the injury I felt stronger than before I did it.
What I need now is the match sharpness which only comes from playing.
I had a couple of training sessions between Saturday and Tuesday’s games and now I’ve got two sessions ahead of the Fulham game.
What made things a lot easier for me coming on as a substitute was the work done by the lads up front – Callum, Tom Barkhuizen and Billy Bodin.
They were tremendous – Billy had worked his socks off and that helped us to stretch Bolton’s and Bristol City’s defences.
On Tuesday night before I went on, the gaffer told me to work the channels and get in behind, as the Bristol defence was getting tired.
The other goalscorer in Tuesday’s game was Alan Browne and what a season he is having.
Browney is getting better and better, the confidence he showed when chipping the keeper was fantastic.
There was always talk of him needing to add goals to his game and now he has six for the season.
That is not bad for a lad who has moved around quite a lot – he’s played as a No.10, as a holding midfielder, in the centre of defence and at right-back.
I remember Browney was excellent when we played this weekend’s opponents Fulham at Craven Cottage earlier in the season.
Personally speaking, that was our best performance in an away game this season and we came so close to a win.
In the first half we pressed and pressed them, forcing Fulham to make a lot of mistakes which we took advantage of.
We will have to work even harder on Saturday because they are a very good side who are on a great run of form.
I’m just relieved to be back involved with the squad again.
I got to most of the home games when I was injured, while I would follow the away matches on Twitter.
But being part of that build-up during the week to a game – the training and the other work we do – is what it is all about.
Being sat in the gym doing exercises to build up the muscle was something I had to do but it can be soul-destroying knowing that the lads are out training.