Dave Seddon’s press view

Paul Huntington
Paul Huntington
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Scott Laird, Jack King, Paul Huntington and David Buchanan.

Four names in the Preston squad, four very decent lads by the way, and collectively an example of how things can change very quickly in football.

Who would have guessed at that quartet forming the PNE back line at Gillingham on Tuesday night?

No one would have, not even Simon Grayson who sent them out to do battle at Priestfield Stadium in a gale.

The Lilywhites manager had intended having Scott Wiseman at right-back, only for a sore knee in the warm-up to thwart that.

So in stepped Laird to the starting XI having been initially named among the list of substitutes.

A common theme of Grayson’s when speaking to the media is that no one in the squad is ever completely out of the picture.

Events this week have proved that to be spot on.

Even when it seems a player is so far out in the cold that frostbite is imminent, there is indeed a way back.

Huntington and Buchanan are two cases in point.

Buchanan did not feature in the first-team this season until the start of September.

A game in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Shrewsbury could have been regarded as him being given a run-out for fitness purposes.

However, he has stayed in the team ever since, a run of nine games.

Huntington played in that Shrewsbury game and then did not appear again until the next round against Port Vale.

On Tuesday night he got his first league start since December 29 and turned out to be Preston’s match winner.

Proof there of how fortunes can change in the blink of an eye, the strain of a muscle or the onset of a virus.

Huntington was needed as Tom Clarke was ill and Bailey Wright injured.

King had already been drafted in for Wright a couple of games before.

Then came Huntington’s call when illness meant Clarke had to be left at home.

Should Clarke be right for the meeting with Fleetwood, there are then selection issues for Grayson to mull over.

At least Huntington has put himself in the picture and reminded us all of what he is capable of.

For whatever reason, the last 10 or 11 months have not been the best for the former Newcastle and Leeds centre-half.

He began to fall out of favour last November when King returned from surgery on a broken foot and took his place in the three-man defence favoured at the time.

After King had a recurrence of the injury, back into the team came Huntington.

But the switch to four at the back in January has meant a diet of cup football predominantly since then.

You get what it says on the tin with Huntington, his height means he is strong in the air and as Tuesday showed, there will always be a goal or two in his locker.

Distribution is not a particular strength but the starting point for any defender at League One level is to be able to defend, pure and simple.

The ability to spray passes from the back is a bonus, something to be worked on.

We might not see the Laird, King, Huntington and Buchanan combo again, mainly because Laird playing at right-back was a complete emergency.

But them coming together should be food for thought for anyone struggling to get into the side.

It was an entirely changed back four to the one which started the first four games of the season – that having been Calum Woods, Clarke, Wright and Ben Davies.

Doors open, opportunities do come, the key being to take advantage when the chance does come along.

Which defence takes to the pitch against Fleetwood will be one which Graham Alexander hopes can be unlocked by his Cod Army team.

The first ever competitive clash with Town marks Grezza’s return to Deepdale.

In the build-up he has tried to play down the significance but after playing more than 400 games in a Preston shirt, you can simply not ignore it.

The very last of those games is one which thousands of PNE fans will remember with such fondness. If ever a script was written for football, that April afternoon in 2012 was it as Grezza whipped home that last-gasp free-kick.

One thing that still makes me smile from that day was John Dreyer running through the tactics flip-book with Alexander as he prepared to come on as substitute. After 1,022 games, I’m sure he knew how to play at right-back!