PNE old boy misses reunion

Preston-born Andy Lonergan is now at Fulham
Preston-born Andy Lonergan is now at Fulham
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Injury looks likely to prevent Fulham goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan from facing home-town club Preston North End this weekend.

Lonergan played 232 games for PNE, the first of those when he was only 16.

After spells with Leeds and Bolton, the 32-year-old joined Fulham on a Bosman in the summer.

North End’s visit to Craven Cottage would have given Lonergan a first opportunity to face them since leaving in July 2011.

However, a hamstring injury has kept him sidelined in recent weeks.

Lonergan started the season as the Cottagers’ first-choice keeper, playing their first 10 league games.

He suffered a hamstring strain in Fulham’s goalless draw at Middlesbrough on October 17, and had to be replaced in the 77th minute.

A fortnight later, Lonergan returned to action for their 4-1 away victory over Bristol City.

Although he completed that game, the injury flared up again and he has been sidelined ever since.

Former Morecambe loanee Joe Lewis – on loan from Cardiff City – is now between the sticks for Fulham, backed up by Slovakian teenager Marek Rodak on the bench.

Preston-born Lonergan was on PNE’s books from a young age.

David Moyes gave him his debut in a League Cup clash at Coventry in September 2000, Lonergan a few weeks short of his 17th birthday at the time.

Later that season, he made his league bow in a 3-2 victory over Watford as North End homed in on a play-off place.

After a handful of games over the next couple of seasons, Lonergan’s big break came in the 2004/05 campaign when he made 26 appearances.

A knee injury put things on hold before he established himself as first-choice keeper from September 2007, onwards.

He was sold to Leeds after PNE’s relegation in 2011, the Leeds boss who bought him being Simon Grayson.

Lonergan spent a season at Elland Road before moving back to the region to sign for Bolton Wanderers.

His three years there ended when he joined Fulham in the summer.

Other players to have worn the shirts of both Preston and Fulham in their careers include Mike Conroy, Brian McBride, David Healy, Eddie Lewis and Gavin Nebbling.

As was the case with North End’s previous two opponents, Fulham have opted for a change at the top of late.

They sacked head coach Kit Symons earlier this month, the axe swung after a 5-2 home defeat to Birmingham City.

Peter Grant, the club’s 
first-team coach, took charge of the Cottagers’ 1-1 draw at MK Dons last week.

Reading boss Steve Clarke looked set to take the job ahead of the MK Dons game, only for there to be a late change of heart.

Chelsea’s assistant first-team coach Steve Holland and Nigel Pearson – out of work since leaving Leicester in the summer – have been linked.

The current favourite with the bookies is Birmingham manager Gary Rowett who has turned the St Andrews’ outfit from relegation candidates into promotion pushers.

It could be that Scotsman Grant is still in caretaker charge when North End arrive in West London.