PNE duo must stay patient

Alan Browne

Alan Browne

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Young midfield duo Josh Brownhill and Alan Browne still have important roles to play for Preston North End in the second half of the season.

That is the view of manager Simon Grayson, who has taken the pair out of the firing line in recent times – opting to utilise the more experienced Neil Kilkenny and John Welsh in central midfield.

NIneteen-year-old Browne and Brownhill – who turned 19 yesterday – started the season very much as PNE’s first-choice pairing alongside Kilkenny as Grayson opted to use a 4-3-3 formation.

But the teenagers’ appearances from the start of games have, by and large, dried up in recent weeks.

You have to go back to the 4-2 win over Colchester United in early October at Deepdale for the last time the pair played together in the PNE team during a league game.

In fact that victory over the U’s is the last time Brownhill made the starting XI for a League One fixture – since then he has been restricted to substitute appearances, supplemented by the odd start in both the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the FA Cup.

Browne has featured in the North End starting XI with a bit more regularity in recent months, although a hamstring strain kept him out for three weeks after the 2-1 loss to Bradford City on November 15.

The duo were back in the team for Tuesday night’s 1-0 win over Notts County in the JPT northern area semi-final at Meadow Lane.

They lasted the entire 90 minutes alongside Jack King in midfield and Grayson was pleased with their performances. It is likely Kilkenny and Welsh will return to the team for this afternoon’s League One clash against Peterborough at London Road.

And Grayson admitted the teenagers will have to remain patient as they try to force their way back into the side on a regular basis.

“I think it is important to keep young players fresh,” Grayson said.“Whether you are young or old, you still need refreshing.

“They know they have to wait for their opportunity because I think they will be the first to admit when they have watched John Welsh and Neil Kilkenny – those two have been playing well for us.

“You can be in the team and out of the team but when you get the opportunity, you have to show what you are capable of doing.

“Josh and Alan did that on Tuesday night and that’s the squad that we have got.

“Everybody is capable of coming into the team and they won’t let me down.”

Meanwhile, utility man Keith Keane could still have a part to play for North End this season.

The 28-year-old midfielder has returned to Deepdale after spending the past three months on loan at fellow League One club Crawley Town.

“We will just have to wait and see what the situation is,” said Grayson.

“It benefited us and Keith for him to go out and get some games under his belt.

“As it stands, he is our player and we will utilise him if we need to.”