PNE boss ponders changes

Andy Little could start in PNE's team at Fleetwood

Andy Little could start in PNE's team at Fleetwood

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Simon Grayson will have to alter the Preston North End team-sheet at Fleetwood on Sunday after a settled spell of selection.

The Lilywhites manager is without Callum Robinson and Bailey Wright for the televised derby clash, the pair among four players away playing for their countries.

Robinson has started the last eight games and Wright the previous 10, their absence creating vacancies on the 
left-hand side of the attack and in the centre of defence.

For the last three matches, Grayson chose to name an unchanged starting XI.

His only switch came on the bench where Andy Little and Kyel Reid alternated as cover for the wings.

It could be Little who gets the nod in Robinson’s role at Highbury Stadium.

The Irishman made his first appearance since January 3 as a late sub against Barnsley last week, almost getting on the scoresheet with a header.

Reid is another option down the left, while an alternative is to bring Chris Humphrey in on the right and switch Jermaine Beckford across the pitch.

The choice to cover Wright’s absence looks more straightforward.

Tom Clarke will move into the centre of defence alongside Paul Huntington, with Calum Woods taking the right-back position.

Wright and Robinson both featured in international games on Wednesday night.

Robinson was on duty for England Under-20s against Mexico at Barnet’s Hive ground.

The Aston Villa loanee played the full game and scored the winning penalty in a shootout after the 90 minutes had produced a 1-1 draw.

Wright won his second cap for Australia, coming on as a 78th-minute substitute in their 2-2 draw with Germany.

The Socceroos play again on Sunday in Macedonia, with England Under-20s facing the United States.

Also away on international duty are Alan Browne and Scott Wiseman, neither of whom have started in the PNE side in recent matches.

North End skipper Clarke is confident that the enforced changes will not knock them out of their stride.

The defender said: “One of the reasons the gaffer has built this squad is to cover absences like this.

“Everyone wants to get out on the pitch – the competition is good for us.”

Clarke missed the reverse fixture with the Cod Army at Deepdale in October because of illness.

The 3-2 victory featured a second-half comeback from Preston after they trailed 2-0 at the interval.

Said Clarke: “The first half wasn’t brilliant and Fleetwood got into the lead quickly.

“Then Joe Garner came up with a hat-trick in the second half and, as a team, we were a lot better.

“It is a big game at their place on Sunday and one we are looking forward to.”

North End will be backed by 1,200 fans at Highbury, the allocation selling out in a little more than two days.

Those making the trip are advised to allow extra time for their journey because of roadworks at the A585 Windy Harbour junction in Singleton.

Meanwhile, Jordan Hugill’s move to Hartlepool was the only piece of business done at Deepdale before the Football League’s emergency loan window closed yesterday.

Hugill returned to the club after a 28-day stay at Tranmere and was immediately allowed back out to join Pools, who are battling to avoid relegation to the Conference.

It marks a return to the North East for the striker, who was born in Teesside.

PNE have loaned him out in order to bolster his match fitness after a long absence with a knee injury.