PNE check on walking wounded

Daniel Johnson (right) missed the trip to Leeds on Sunday
Daniel Johnson (right) missed the trip to Leeds on Sunday
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Preston North End will run fitness checks on three midfielders ahead of their Boxing Day visit to Huddersfield.

Daniel Johnson missed Sunday’s defeat at Leeds because of a tight hamstring, the same complaint forcing Alan Browne out of the action in the second half of the Elland Road clash.

Paul Gallagher has also been playing with a niggling groin strain in recent games, although he got through the 90 minutes of the Leeds clash.

John Welsh took Johnson’s place at the weekend, although he was sacrificed after Jordan Pickford’s red card to make way for sub keeper Matt Hudson.

In the second half, Neil Kilkenny joined the action as a substitute in midfield and might well have played his way into contention for a Boxing Day start.

Johnson had not missed a league match since joining PNE in January, starting 44 league and play-off games in a row.

North End manager Simon Grayson said: “It was more of a precaution not to play DJ against Leeds. He’s got a bit of a hamstring problem, although if we had really needed to play him, he could have started.

“But he is an important player for us and we didn’t want to run the risk of him breaking down and missing the whole of the Christmas programme.

“It was the same with Browney when he came off. He was complaining of a tight hamstring a bit earlier so he came off as a precaution.

“Gally is struggling with a groin problem at the moment, so we’ve got a few injuries in that area.

“Neil Kilkenny came in and did a really good job in the second half, while we started with John Welsh so they give us a couple of options in there.

“We brought Kilkenny on because we wanted someone to get on the ball, help control the game and pass it a bit better.

“He played a big part in a dominant second-half performance.

“Kilkenny nearly scored and would love to have done that, being an ex-Leeds player.”

After starting with Welsh for the first time since the 0-0 draw with Cardiff in October, Grayson admitted it was a tough call to substitute him so early.

However, it was a case of needs-must, with PNE having to get Hudson on to the pitch to replace Pickford.

North End were expecting to hear later today the result of their appeal against Pickford’s red card at Elland Road.

“We could quite easily have kept John on,” said Grayson.

“But we just felt with Will Keane on one side and Adam Reach the other – with Joe Garner up front – we could still get something out of the game on the counter-attack.”

Saturday’s opponents Huddersfield are another side Grayson has managed, the visit to the John Smith’s Stadium coming on the back of the Leeds game. He had 11 months in charge of the Terriers before being sacked in January 2013, three weeks before landing the PNE job.

Said Grayson: “I don’t want to make a habit of facing too many former clubs because it means I’ve been sacked too many times!”

“I’m looking forward to Huddersfield. I was only there a year compared to more than three at Leeds but it will be nice to see the people there.

“We are going there looking for three points and to put the Leeds defeat behind us.”