Right-back has been a ‘haunted’ role says Clarke

Alex Baptiste celebrates scoring against Huddersfield Town at Deepdale

Alex Baptiste celebrates scoring against Huddersfield Town at Deepdale

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It will be famine turning into feast for Simon Grayson as far as the Preston North End right-back role is concerned when action resumes after the international break.

Alex Baptiste and Marnick Vermijl both resumed training before the break and should be ready to contest a place in the squad for Saturday’s home clash with Nottingham Forest.

The right-back position has been beset by injuries this season.

Calum Woods was the first to fall before a competitive ball was kicked, badly damaging knee ligaments in July.

Since the turn of the year, Baptiste, Vermijl and Tyias Browning have has spells on the sidelines.

After a brief experiment with Greg Cunningham filling in at right-back, it has been skipper Tom Clarke who has stepped into the breach for the last three games.

Clarke said: “Right-back has been a haunted position in terms of injuries.

“It is a role that I have been asked to play recently and is obviously one I’ve played here before.

“I do prefer to play in the middle but I’ve been happy to move to right-back.

“The position has changed a bit since I used to play there more regularly.

“I think you have to do more attacking from full-back now than you once did.

“I’ve enjoyed playing there, doing a job for the team and we’ve stayed on a good run.”

Baptiste, on a season’s loan from Middlesbrough, had made the right-back spot his own in the first half of the campaign.

He made 19 successive starts in the league, the first few at centre-half before his switch to the right.

The 31-year-old was rested for the win at Burton, having played 48 hours earlier against Sheffield Wednesday.

Grayson’s plan was to restore him to the side against Arsenal on January 7 but Baptiste injured his knee in training two days before. Vermijl played the next four games in his place but was being 
hampered by a hernia.

At the end of January, PNE moved to sign Browning on loan from Everton.

But last month after five games in a Preston shirt, he too suffered a knee injury in training.

He is likely to return later this month.