PNE defender at the ready

Paul Huntington made his first appearance of the season last week

Paul Huntington made his first appearance of the season last week

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Paul Huntington has an open mind about his Preston North End future despite a shortage of first-team football this year.

The centre-half returned to PNE’s side for last week’s win over Shrewsbury in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

That was Huntington’s first start in a competitive match since the middle of January.

In the summer he turned down a move to Port Vale, and there have since been enquiries from other clubs.

Huntington has not ruled out a move during the loan window but would like to stay and fight for a place in the North End defence.

On Tuesday, he skippered a young Lilywhites side in the Lancashire FA Senior Cup against Blackburn.

It was another valuable 90 minutes in the bank, his build-up to the campaign having been cut short by a broken hand suffered in July’s friendly with Liverpool.

Huntington told the Evening Post: “It is hard being out of the team but that is part and parcel of football.

“I have played a lot of games for the manager but at the moment he is going with a different selection.

“What I’ve got to do is keep showing the right attitude, work hard in training and see where that takes me.

“Over the next few weeks I will see what happens.

“The loan window is open now and maybe I can see what is out there.

“But I got my chance last week in the Shrewsbury game and thought I did okay.

“If there is a loss of form, a suspension or an injury, I have to be ready.”

Huntington admits that the timing of his pre-season injury was unfortunate.

His right hand took the full force of Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel falling on him in a penalty-box collision.

“I was out for three weeks with the injury and for the first two weeks I couldn’t do anything,” said Huntington.

“He fouled me and then fell on top of me after we had gone for a high ball.

“It was a spiral fracture across one of the bones and I needed surgery to pin it.

“I have got a few screws in there to go with my other fingers, which are nobbly after previous bumps on them!

“The surgery meant I missed some of the pre-season but I’m feeling fine now.

“I have played in a game every week for the last five weeks when you include the training ground friendlies.

“It was good to get another 90 minutes against Blackburn the other day.

“We had some young lads in the team and I thought that we played quite well.

“For me, it was a chance to build on the 90 minutes I got in the Shrewsbury game.”

While not in the immediate first-team picture, PNE are not stacked out with centre-backs and they could be minded to hang on to Huntington.

They will have to bear in mind too that Bailey Wright could be away on international duty in January when Australia play in the Asia Cup.

Meanwhile, Preston keeper Steven James has gone on a month’s youth loan to Nantwich Town. He spent time with the Dabbers last season.