Welsh back in business for North End

John Welsh has played his way back in recent weeks
John Welsh has played his way back in recent weeks
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John Welsh is delighted to be back getting a regular game in the PNE midfield.

The club captain has started PNE’s last three games and six of the previous eight.

But up until coming on as a substitute in October’s 3-2 victory over Fleetwood, he had not featured in a league game this season.

That was due partly to injury and partly to others being preferred ahead of him in the engine room.

One of his few appearances earlier in the campaign came against Shrewsbury Town in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

It is the Shrews who North End will be hoping to tame a second time when they meet at Deepdale in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Welsh looks to be a likely starter in that one, a knock sustained during the weekend win at Yeovil not deemed to be serious.

“At times, it’s frustrating when you’re out of the side because, as a professional, you want to play every game,” Welsh told the Evening Post.

“But we have such a good group of players here that players can play 10 games, then somebody else comes in and you would not know it because nothing really changes.

“There’s a lot of quality and you understand it when you’re out of the side.

“There is always going to be changes during the season – you just need to make sure you keep working hard in training, doing things right both on and off the pitch.

“And when you do get put in the team, you will be in the right frame of mind to play and your body will be right.”

Until the Fleetwood game, Welsh’s three appearances had come against Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup and the JPT wins over Shrewsbury and Port Vale. Against the Cod Army, the 30-year-old was introduced to the action at half-time as PNE sought to reverse a 2-0 deficit.

With mission accomplished as they ran out 3-2 winners, Welsh was rewarded with his first league start in the next game at Leyton Orient.

After starting the defeats to Rochdale and Swindon, Welsh was back on the bench against Havant and Waterlooville and Bradford.

The former Liverpool man was brought back for the 1-0 win at leaders Bristol City, adding some much-needed bite to the midfield.

Welsh was successful from the spot as Preston got past Oldham on penalties in the JPT and he then started in the Yeovil victory.

The win over Bristol City of course came at a cost, with top scorer Joe Garner suffering a serious knee injury which will keep him out for between three and four months.

It will now be up to others to provide the regular supply of goals which Garner was doing.

While acknowledging the loss of the striker is a major one, Welsh feels the squad has the necessary depth to cope.

“Joe’s loss is a big blow,” said Welsh. “Everything we wanted to do this season, Joe was a major asset to us doing that.

“He’s going to be a big miss in the dressing room.

“But we have got a great squad and it means there’s an opportunity for somebody else to come in and score goals.

“I am sure somebody else will step up to the plate.”

North End signed Jermaine Beckford on loan two days before Garner was injured and have since brought in Bradley Fewster from Middlesbrough.