Preston frontman Louis Moult loving life at Deepdale as North End eye Championship play-offs
Louis Moult has certainly been impressed with what he has seen since his arrival at Deepdale.
A January arrival after a prolific spell in front of goal for Motherwell, the PNE front man has joined a club right in the mix for a Championship play-off spot.
The 1-1 draw at Aston Villa means Alex Neil’s men have lost just one of their last 17 Championship games and sit three points shy of the top six ahead of Ipswich coming to town on Saturday.
It is also off the field that Moult has liked the look of his new surroundings with a young, emerging group determined to mix it at the right end of the second tier and push for a place in the Premier League.
“It’s about staying in and around it at the moment,” said the 25-year-old, who scored 50 goals in 98 games during his time with Motherwell.
“I think it will go right down to the wire if I’m honest. As long as we’re there or thereabouts we’ve always got a chance.
“First and foremost you take care of your own business but there’s definitely half an eye on other results because that can determine where you’re going to finish.
“I had a little check on Wednesday night I’m not going to lie but I’m sure most of the boys did.
“That’s how eager we are to finish in a play-off spot.
“I’ve never been part of a bunch that wants it as much as this bunch and I’m enjoying myself and I’m loving it.
“It’s a very driven, enthusiastic and passionate group and all those things suit me.
“If we can all be like that and add quality to our game, which I think we did on Tuesday, it marries up together really well.”
The visit to Villa Park saw Moult make his full Championship debut, operating in a front two alongside the in-form Callum Robinson.
It was a game where the pair came up against former Chelsea and England captain John Terry, something that gave PNE’s new front man a real taste of how tough life in the second tier can be.
“First and foremost I was delighted to get the start,” said Moult.
“I’m thankful to the gaffer for chucking me in at Villa Park away from home when they were third in the league.
“It shows he trusts me, which is a massive for me as an individual.
“It was a good challenge playing against John Terry, I enjoyed the battle.
“I played against Bruno Alves at Rangers earlier on in the season and that was also a good test.
“I love to test myself against good players and I’d like to think I did okay.
“You learn things. When you come up against players like that – they are a little bit cuter, a little bit more clever than most centre-halves you play against. It might look like a physical test but it’s a test mentally as well.”
On paper it looks a good point on the back of the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Deepdale last Saturday but with a controversial penalty handing Villa a way back in, there was a degree of frustration for all involved with PNE.
“As a whole we were disappointed because we put in such a great performance,” said Moult, who played 83 minutes before being replaced by Daryl Horgan.
“But when you reflect you’ve got to be happy with a point.
“The performance was the most pleasing thing, though.
“We were on well on top, especially in the first half. We created a number of chances.
“The second half was still a good performance and we managed the game really well.
“All over the pitch I thought we won the battle but then when we got the ball I thought we played some really good football as well.
“It just shows you how far the boys have come this season.
“I’ve only been here a month but the endeavour and attitude from the players was brilliant.”
Neil’s switch to 4-4-2 was another example of his thorough preparation coming good as North End controlled large parts of the game against one of the top sides in the division, as they had done against leaders Wolves on Saturday.
“We’re definitely going out onto the pitch with all the information we need,” Moult said. “His attention to detail is brilliant and it’s probably the best I’ve worked with in terms of that.
“There’s a little bit of everything in there, there’s stuff you work on in training, stuff you look at on screen and little pointers and information, all of which he’s very good at.
“His staff are the same and we’re always prepared for whatever is thrown at us.
“We know what our jobs are and we know what our game-plan is.
“You saw that on Tuesday night at Villa Park when the game-plan worked down to a tee.
“I’m sure it will be the same again on Saturday.”
Next up is 14th-in-the-table Ipswich as PNE bid to kick on after impressing against two of the Championship’s big guns.
“We need to start turning those draws into wins,” said Moult.
“That’s obvious to us and to everyone looking at the table.
“We’re at home on Saturday and that gives us that little advantage.
“Hopefully we can win and start picking up the wins we need.”
PNE’s No.21 will hope to lead the line again, having been given the nod at Villa Park.
Moult has had to be patient, having initially seen his North End debut delayed by a hamstring injury.
“The injury I had was a frustrating one,” he said.
“I think it was nearly 10 weeks that I was out for, which takes its toll.
“I’m still building the strength in my hamstring but with more games the stronger it will get and the fitter I will get.
“The training’s been brilliant, I’ve enjoyed every day.
“All the lads have been great and with the more minutes I get the sharper I’ll get.
“As a striker you’re always judged on goals so and hopefully they will come sooner rather than later.
“The main thing for me is to stay in the team and work hard.”