Baptiste blow for PNE

Alex Baptiste is facing a spell out of the Preston team after suffering a knee injury.
Alex Baptiste is out of action with a knee injury suffered in trainingAlex Baptiste is out of action with a knee injury suffered in training
Alex Baptiste is out of action with a knee injury suffered in training

The defender was hurt in training ahead of the Arsenal game and is currently having the injury assessed.

Baptiste, on a season-long loan from Middlesbrough, has been a key figure in PNE’s defence this term.

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Until last week’s win against Burton which he was rested for, the 30-year-old was an ever-present in league action.

North End manager Simon Grayson told the Evening Post: “Baps got injured in training on Thursday.

“He was going to play in the Arsenal game but unfortunately got a knee injury.

“Thankfully, Marnick Vermijl was available for selection and went in at right-back.

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“It was disappointing for Baps because he has done very well for us – he was looking forward to playing against Arsenal.

“We are still assessing him, so it is a bit too early to be talking about the length of time that we will be without him.

“It is not season-ending or anything like that but we will have to see if it is weeks or a couple of months.”

Baptiste joined Preston on deadline day in August as Grayson looked to add experience and versatility to the back-line.

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He has played both in the centre of defence and at right-back.

Grayson rested Baptiste at Burton, given it came just 48 hours after he had played against Sheffield Wednesday.

But he was set to go straight back into the team for the Arsenal clash.

His injury and the sale of Bailey Wright to Bristol City, has limited the selection choices at the back.

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Paul Huntington and Tom Clarke formed the centre-back partnership against Arsenal.

Vermijl recovered from a groin strain to take Baptiste’s place at right-back.

North End do have Andy Boyle as cover in the middle, his move from Dundalk having been made official when the transfer window opened.

Vermijl, Tommy Spurr and Greg Cunningham can also play in the centre of defence.

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“We’ve got Andy Boyle at the club now, he’s had a few training sessions now to get used to how we want to play,” said Grayson.

On the playing front, North End will turn their attention back to the Championship this week after the excitement of the Arsenal cup clash.

They have a clear midweek to prepare for the visit of league leaders Brighton to Deepdale on Saturday.

The following week, PNE make the trip to Aston Villa.

Fans have snapped up all but a handful of the 2,700 allocation for the Villa Park clash, with just restricted-view seats left.

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North End’s scheduled home game against Ipswich on January 28, hinges on the outcome of the Tractor Boys’ FA Cup replay with Lincoln City next week.

If Ipswich beat Lincoln, they will be in fourth-round action on the weekend they should be at Deepdale.