Almost a year on from suffering a serious knee injury Preston front man Stevie May is making big strides towards a first-team return.
The striker hit a hat-trick in an in-house game this week as he continues on the long road back to Championship action.
The Scot, who made his one and only senior international appearance against England two years ago, rejoined the PNE squad on the field at Springfields at the start of October having damaged knee ligaments against Fulham at the end of November last year
Turning 24 this week, the former St Johnstone and Sheffield Wednesday man has seen his rehab take the next step.
Impressing in games amongst the squad on the training field, the next stop for May will be the bounce games planned for the two-week international break which comes after PNE’s trip to Rotherham today.
“He’s making really good progress,” said North End boss Simon Grayson.
“He scored a couple on Tuesday and that’s done him the world of good. He’s not going to be ready for another four weeks or so but we’re getting there with him.
“Stevie’s worked so hard to get back to where he is now and we’ll keep working with him and make sure we get the time right for him to come back into the first-team squad.
“He’s making really good progress, which is physiologically a massive thing for him.”
Coming through training ground games is a box ticked for May, who will next test the water in the behind-closed-doors games that will come before PNE host Wolves on November 19.
“It wasn’t 90 minutes, it was a 50 or 60-minute game,” Grayson said.
“It was to get certain players on to a bigger area, rather than the seven-a-side they might have been doing over the last few weeks.
“There are different distances to cover in match situations so it’s all about small steps for one or two and topping up others who will be needed over the next few weeks.
“It’s encouraging for him though because it’s been a long, hard struggle for him both physically and mentally but there’s light at the end of the tunnel now.”
May’s injury came in just his eighth PNE appearance and only minutes after coming on at Craven Cottage.
Damaging three different ligaments, the big-money signing from the Owls had to allow time for his posterior cruciate ligament to heal before undergoing surgery on his medial and anterior ligaments.
May will not be the only one to step up his recovery during the international break, John Welsh being ever closer to a return from the calf injury picked up at Brighton.
Grayson said: “After Saturday we’ve got the two-week break so it does give one or two players with niggles the time to get over them and with John it’s an opportunity to get back.”