Preston North End skipper Tom Clarke wants repeat performance at Leeds after cup win
Preston aim to rewind three weeks when they head to Elland Road to face league leaders Leeds United.
Their visit in the League Cup to that corner of West Yorkshire saw them pull off a 2-0 victory, a result even more impressive bearing in mind they played for an hour with 10 men.
North End skipper Tom Clarke watched from the stand that night because of injury and was impressed with what he saw.
Such traits will be needed in this second visit as Alex Neil’s men go in search of a much-needed victory in the Championship.
Without a league win since the opening day of the campaign and having slipped to next to bottom of the table, the tide needs to turn before it turns into a long autumn.
Clarke (below) said: “While both teams were much changed that night, it is still a result we can use positively in the build-up to this game.
“Leeds played the same way they have done, it was just different personnel.
“They try and play out from the back and what we did was to press them high and force them into mistakes.
“We attacked on the counter very well and saw the game out well even though we were down to 10 men for the length of time we were.
“There was a lot to take from that night and we’ll use it as a positive going into this one. We know that Leeds are going well and how they’ve started this season is very impressive.
“Their manager Marcelo Bielsa has gone in there and done well.
“You can see that they want to play with intensity, want to press well and keep the ball well.
“We’ve stopped them once already this season and hopefully we can do that again this time.
“A big thing will be to try and keep their crowd quiet.
“When we went a goal up in the cup, it happened.
“Going there as the underdog will be good.
“We’ve been used to that over the last couple of years but the expectation levels have risen with how well we did last season. With how things have gone so far this time, we will be the underdog again.”
The Elland Road clash is a meeting of top versus second-bottom.
That shows just what a difficult time North End have had in terms of their league form of late.
Since beating Queens Park Rangers on August 4, they have taken only two points – 2-2 draws against Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers when they were in front in both.
On Saturday, PNE lost 3-2 to Reading at Deepdale, the Royals having gone into the game as the Championship’s bottom team.
Said Clarke: “In general we feel we have been playing well but not getting results.
“On Saturday we created a lot of chances, I think we had 22 shots at their goal.
“But we’ve been getting caught by a sucker-punch.
“That happened against Reading with their third goal, every mistake we make at the moment we seem to get punished.
“When we are on top of a game – like we were early on against Reading – we need to take our chances.
“I don’t think that we are a million miles away but we have to start showing that.
“There have been spells in games when we have put ourselves across well but results have been disappointing.
“We know that the fans are frustrated and it is also frustrating for us when we are out there. Against Reading we knew we should have been 2-0 up, even 3-0 up, with the chances we had before they scored.
“We will keep working hard and we are confident that results will come.
This is a big test for us as a group and as individuals.
“We are a good group, we all want to do well.
“The atmosphere in the dressing room is great and we need to dig in.”
How North End line up at Leeds will be interesting, the team having been chopped and changed of late.
Some of the changes have been down to injuries and bans but PNE boss Neil has also made some voluntary changes in a bid to find the winning formula.
Neil went to a 3-4-3 formation against Reading, with Clarke on the right-hand side of the back three.
The system change was to try and cover the absence of three midfielders – Alan Browne, Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson.
While Browne could recover from a calf strain to play some part at Leeds, Pearson and Ledson are out suspended.
Clarke said: “We were missing key personnel on Saturday so we went three at the back. A lot of us were quite comfortable with it having played it previously.
“The manager wanted it played a little bit differently but I thought we played it quite well.”