Welsh not ready to return yet

Midfield ace John Welsh
Midfield ace John Welsh
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Preston will have to wait a while longer for the return from injury of midfielder John Welsh.

The 33-year-old has missed the last three months with a torn calf muscle.

Welsh did the damage in the latter stages of the 2-2 draw with Brighton at the Amex Stadium in October.

The fact the Seagulls are North End’s opponents at Deepdale this weekend in the reverse fixture, does highlight how lengthy his absence has been.

Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson said: “John has been out this long simply because of the severity of the calf injury.

“It was a really bad one, the muscle got torn in two more or less – this was not your usual strain.

“John suffered a big tear, you could say he very much did it properly.

“We are disappointed to have lost John for such a long time but injuries are part and parcel of football.

“At the moment he is back running on the grass, which is a good sign.

“We aren’t going to put a timescale on him coming back because it is so hard to do with muscular injuries.

“When John returns, it will be very welcome because he is a good player who offers us something different.”

Welsh had just got himself up and running for the season when he suffered the injury.

After being out of favour in the early weeks, he got back in Grayson’s plans in September.

The Bournemouth game was a springboard for him, just as it was for others in the PNE squad – Ben Pearson, Chris Maxwell and Simon Makienok in particular.

He started the games against Birmingham, Aston Villa and Brighton, his display in a holding role against Villa particularly impressive.

Welsh’s calf muscle went in the last few minutes against Brighton, leaving PNE with 10 men as they had used all three substitutes.

They still got a point when a man down, Makienok netting with a stoppage-time header.

Currently sidelined with Welsh is Alex Baptiste, the defender having injured his right knee in training last week.

Said Grayson: “Baps is probably going to be out for a couple of weeks at least.

“It gives someone else an opportunity to play, this is when you need your squad.”

Meanwhile, PNE will have their biggest away following of the season behind them at Aston Villa next Saturday.

Fans have snapped-up the 2,700 allocation for Villa Park, that North End’s first visit there since 2002 when they played in the League Cup.

The biggest following to date this term was the 1,698 at Burton on January 2.

Behind that was the 1,559 who made November’s trip to Rotherham.

PNE have games at Wigan, Blackburn, Fulham, Leeds and Newcastle in the second half of the season which will attract big followings.