Preston North End full back Joe Rafferty has impressed since his involvement in the side this season and he is enjoying his chance.
The No.15 has played on the left side of the Lilywhites’ back four over recent weeks and was tested on Tuesday night as he lined up directly in front of one of the Premier League’s most in-form players, Bernardo Silva, a test he thoroughly enjoyed.
He also then took a chance to see the red half of Manchester in action on his night off as well, as his former team-mates at Rochdale took the trip to Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
“It was a good test for us [against Manchester City],” he said. “You want to play against the best players in the world and some of those lads are. On form, Bernardo Silva is up there and in the Premier League we have all seen what he can do. On the other side Sterling is an unbelievable player, up there with the best in the world. We got beat, but I didn’t think we came out of the game too badly, I thought we did all right.
“We came in after our game against Birmingham and we always check the results and we saw City had won 8-0 and I can’t say what we were thinking. But we realised we just had to work hard, play the way we play and what we can. We knew they would get chances, because they beat Premier League teams and Champions League teams week in, week out, so we knew we had to work hard and tighten up. We did that quite well.
“They created a good few chances, but you look at the goals and two were deflected, so we did reasonably well. At half-time we were 3-0 down and we wanted to win the second half, tighten up and try and nick a goal and [Josh] Harrop hit the post, we got in once or twice and there were some positives to take from it. It’s not that frustrating. We did get beaten, but we gave a good account of ourselves.
“It was an unbelievable night [for Rochdale]. I was lucky enough to go and it was great. They did unbelievably well against a team that contained Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones. I was made up for them – I text Brian after the game and he said he was buzzing for the lads to have taken it all the way to penalties. It was unfortunate to lose that way, but they don’t need to be down about anything because they gave a good account of themselves.”
Back to league action this weekend, with two in-form teams meeting up, Bristol City seven unbeaten as they arrive in PR1.
“It has been a great start for us,” continued ‘Raff’. “I wasn’t here at the start of last season, but the boys were telling me that we didn’t start too well, so it was important this season that we got off to a good start, pick up as many points as we possibly could. We have started well and given ourselves something to build on. We have to keep going and we have a good home game now against Bristol City on Saturday. We have to keep picking up points, playing well and see what happens.
“It is sometimes difficult against the wing backs and the 3-5-2, because sometimes you don’t have a man up against you and you have to think more. We played Brentford and they did it really well and we won the game, but they were one of the hardest teams we have come up against, but if we play the way we can, we can get the result we want.”
The 25-year-old Scouser admits that he now feels more a part of the squad, having become a regular on the team sheet, despite playing on the left, rather than the right: “It is difficult at first; even with the boys, you don’t want to come in and be too loud if you are not actually playing.
“You want to make sure the boys know that you actually can play and then things fall into place after that. It was important for me to be patient. I knew I would get a chance and it was about taking it when I got it and I am trying to play as well as I can in every game I play.
“I have said a few times that it is a similar job [at left back] to that on the opposite side of the pitch. I have to swing my left leg a bit more, but sometimes you play against wingers who like to cut inside, which favours me and my stronger foot and sometimes they like to go down the outside and I don’t mind that because I can use my left foot. It is good for me – a good challenge.
“The job of a full back is not just to sit in and defend now, you are going to have a lot of the ball. We don’t play as wingers, we are defenders who get forward, but it is part of the game to be up and down and play the full side of the pitch, which is good for me as it means you get involved,” he added.