PNE defender has been unlucky

Paul Huntington has not featured for PNE since January
Paul Huntington has not featured for PNE since January
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Preston North End centre-half Paul Huntington can count himself unlucky to have been sidelined in recent months according to Deepdale boss Simon Grayson.

The 26-year-old has not played in the PNE first team for three months, his last game being the FA Cup replay win over Ipswich in January.

Tom Clarke, Bailey Wright and Jack King have all been picked ahead of him since then in the back line.

And when it comes to picking substitutes for the bench, Grayson has tended to give the nod to more versatile defenders.

It might be that Huntington, 26, gets some game time before the end of the season to shake off the rust in case he is called upon during the play-offs.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “When you look at the squad over the last month or so there is probably only Hunts who has been really unlucky and has not featured in the 18-man squad or had some game time.

“We spoke before the deadline about him possibly being a player who could have gone out on loan – but we have kept him here.

“Hunts has done extremely well in training and it is just unfortunate sometimes that you don’t need that extra defender on the bench.

“Other players have played well in that position – he’s done nothing wrong and I feel really sorry for him.

“He’s a good lad who gets his head down and works hard, so let’s see where it takes him over the next few weeks.

“The defenders I have had on the bench are versatile.

“Jack King has been on the bench and can play a few different positions. Scott Laird can play either left-back or at centre-half.

“Hunts is unfortunate that he is an out–and–out centre-half who has got other people in front of him.”

Until the middle of November, Huntington was a regular at the heart of the Preston back four.

He was initially nudged out by King’s return from a broken foot, before regaining his place when King suffered a recurrence of the injury.

But since the early weeks of January, the former Newcastle, Leeds and Yeovil player has been a peripheral figure.

In the main, Grayson has opted for the Clarke/Wright central pairing in a four-man defence, with King added to them when North End have gone with a 3-5-2 system.

Grayson, meanwhile, says he has no plans at the moment to recall any of the players who the club currently have out on loan.

PNE have 24-hour call-back clauses on most of them should the numbers need boosting at Deepdale.

“We don’t need those lads to be coming back as things stand,” said Grayson.

“It is nice to see them doing well at other clubs and enjoying the experience.

“A lot of them are in positions where their clubs are pushing for promotion – York, Rochdale, Burton, Fleetwood and even the lads at Chorley are in the chase for promotion.

“That is great experience for all the lads and hopefully there will be a few promotions celebrated, most notably here at Preston.”