Preston North End No.1 Declan Rudd is enjoying the team’s current run of form, but is very level-headed with 15 big games still to be played.
The Lilywhites’ goalkeeper is looking forward to making the trip to the bet365 Stadium on Wednesday night and thinks the stern test that Stoke City will provide will be a good one for he and his team-mates.
“It is never an easy place to go,” Dec told iFollow PNE. “The old saying says ‘can you do it at Stoke away on a Tuesday, or in this case Wednesday, night?’!
“Our away form has picked up, their home form is good, so it should be a good game.
“With a bit of luck, this storm will have moved on by then. I have played there many a time in midweek, and whether it is June or February, it is still blowing a gale.
“It [the weather] makes it interesting. We have played in that weather enough to know how to deal with it. Sometimes it can be a bit unpredictable, but that is football, you have to get on with it and hope that the work you have been doing in training can help you through it.
“If you look at their manager’s Northern Ireland side and how they do in getting into competitions, qualifying, they never seem to get turned over, even by the big sides and he is very good at getting them organised and with the squad that Stoke have got, with the quality, if they can be organised they will be some squad to stop.
“It is no surprise that he has gone in there and it has completely changed around and that he is getting the right results out of the squad – so it will be a tough one for us.”
The Championship tightened up again at the weekend, with now just five points covering second to seventh and the former Norwich City custodian believes that concentration is the key.
“It is a mad league,” he continued. “You can go from being out of it one week, to two games later being right in the mix. You have to just try and keep on a run and if you do have a loss, or the team has a bad game, you just have to put it aside and concentrate on the next one.
“One game isn’t going to put you out of it, because there are so many teams involved. It is about staying focused, not getting carried away or too low and staying on a medium level.
“This part of the season is a separate mini-season. You have the bottom six battling it out, you have the teams in the middle trying to get higher and then you have the teams battling it out for promotion and that’s what makes it so exciting.
“Every game is like a cup final. You look to go out there and take all three points, because sometimes one point isn’t good enough because you have a lot of teams around you.
“You don’t want to be going into the last two or three games needing to win to get into the Play-Offs, you want to make your run into it is good enough to make sure you are already there and you are not putting too much pressure on yourself, because that can also affect your chances of getting in there.”
And in the remaining 15 games, eight of which come away from Deepdale, Dec feels that the atmosphere generated by the travelling support has an important part to play.
“The Blackburn and Wigan away games felt like home games. We probably had more fans in their stadium than they did.
“The away fans have been unbelievable, travelling all over the country to support the team and that gives you that extra boost that you need to push you on.
“Win you win a game, the atmosphere is brilliant – at the end of the game on Saturday they stayed behind and were signing and it was great.
“But no one should get carried away. Fifteen games is a lot of games and if we start thinking we have done it already, then that’s when we will start falling behind, because that’s when you take your foot off the gas and miss out on that extra couple of per cent.
“We just need to make sure we carry on doing what we are doing. The manager is one that won’t let us take our foot off the gas. He has been there before – at Norwich – in a similar position at this point in the season and ended up going up through the Play-Offs.
“He knows what it takes and in the last couple of years we have also been in and around it, so let’s hope we can use that experience to push us into the top six this year,” he added.