North End winger Will Hayhurst admits the resurgence of Joel Byrom in the PNE squad has motivated him to work as hard as possible to recoup his place among the starting XI.
Byrom grabbed his opportunity with both hands when he came on as a substitute against Coventry, scoring a powerful header in the 4-4 stalemate, and followed that up with a starting berth in the Lilywhites’ local derby clash versus Burnley, putting in another all-action performance.
The midfielder then netted the opener in North End’s 3-0 victory over Walsall just days later.
“I think we’ve got a great squad and if we all stay fit and work hard, then I think we’ll be up there,” Hayhurst told PNE.Com in an exclusive interview.
“You just see with the striker options and we’ve got the two best full backs in the league, you look at Joel Byrom – he was playing for the reserves and he’s done superbly well to be back in the team so he’s motivation for the ones who aren’t in the 18.
“I’ve watched him and taken motivation going into the reserve game and hopefully I can get back into the team.
“I think, because it’s a tough squad, you’ve got to be playing at your best to stay in the team and I think that’s right.
“It keeps everyone on their toes and great credit to Joel, he’s been fantastic in training and in the reserve games and he’s come back and he’s looking very fit and playing really well and also he’s grafted for his chance.”
In contrast to Byrom, Hayhurst came on as a substitute in PNE’s opening game of the season against Wolves, started in the famous 1-0 win over Blackpool at Deepdale and in the away visit to Rotherham that followed.
However, the winger has found it difficult to hold down a regular starting slot since the goalless stalemate at the New York Stadium, and admits he feels he has had an inconsistent start to the season.
“I think it’s been a bit up and down,” he said.
“I felt good at the start, I thought when I came on against Wolves and started against Blackpool that I did well but I’ve got a lot to learn and I know it’s going to be tough this season but I want to keep improving.
“I’ve got a lot to work on but I’ll keep fighting for my spot and I’m enjoying the competition.”
The North End squad took part in a bounce match against Wigan Athletic on Tuesday afternoon, with the 19-year-old winger playing the entirety of the match – something he thoroughly enjoyed.
“I was delighted to play a full 90 minutes, it’s been tough and I think we’ve got a great squad this year and there’s a lot of fight for places,” he said.
“But I was happy to get a run-out, it was good to get 90 minutes and I enjoyed it.”
The Lilywhites will be without Hayhurst’s fellow winger Chris Humphrey for Monday night’s game against Oldham and the Republic of Ireland U19 international hopes he can help fill the void left by the Jamaican in front of the Sky cameras.
“Hopefully, if I can keep working hard I can get back in the starting eleven or 18 but Humph’s done really well,” he said.
“He’s come in on the weekend and played right wing back.”
Meanwhile, Hayhurst is confident North End can be victorious against the Latics, especially with the support of the Preston fans, spurring the players on.
“I’m really looking forward to it, hopefully we can get the fans in after a great result at the weekend,” he said.
“It was a great win, a clean sheet and three goals and I thought we played really good and think the lads will be confident and we’ll have a good week of training and everyone will be working hard to get in the eleven to try and impress and get another three points
“In front of the home fans, I think we can really push on and try and get the six points and it’ll look like a really good start for us.”
The corresponding fixture last season saw Will run the length of the pitch to score the second goal of a 2-0 victory for the Lilywhites – something he hopes he can replicate come 7.35pm on Monday evening in front of a large television audience.
“Hopefully I can do that or score in another way!”
“I really enjoyed it and it’s on Sky as well so we’ll have a lot of people watching so hopefully we can impress.”