Earl's set for first-team run

Preston boss Alex Neil thinks he has sufficient options for the left-back role while Greg Cunningham is out of action.

Sunday, 20th August 2017, 1:13 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:24 pm
PNE celebrate Jordan Hugill's goal

Neil gave Josh Earl the nod in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Reading, the teenager making his first-team debut.

Kevin O’Connor was on the bench as cover for Earl, while Calum Woods can play on the left-hand side too.

The performance of Earl mightily impressed Neil and he felt the 18-year-old took his chance.

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Cunningham is going to be out for a while after suffering a bad injury at the end of last week’s defeat to Derby.

A tendon at the back of his knee detached itself from the bone and caused a 28cm tear in the Irishman’s hamstring.

He has undergone surgery to reattach the tendon.

When asked whether he might dip into the transfer market for left-back cover, Neil replied: “What do you think looking at how big Josh did? That is your answer.”

Expanding on that point, Neil said: “We have got cover, Kevin O’Connor was on the bench and Calum Woods is coming back.

“We’ve got a game this week for Calum to get some minutes into his legs, he’s been training really well.

“I thought Josh was great against Reading and for me, left-back in his position.

“He played on the wing in the youth team but I think he is better when the game is in front of him.

“The way my wide players play, at times they have their backs to goal and I think Josh’s biggest strength is stepping

into the game and driving into space in front of him.

“For him to go from Under-18s football at category 3 level to what he did on Saturday, was an incredible step.

“I cannot stress that enough, I don’t think people understand what a big gap there is. I never thought he would let us down and he didn’t.

“There is more to come from him – there are not too many lads of 18 who are 6ft 3in, play at left-back and can run like the wind.

“He is hopefully going to be a special talent for us.”

Neil was delighted with his team’s all-round performance in the Reading win.

Jordan Hugill volleyed the 23rd-minute winner, earning praise from his boss.

“Jordan is a beast, he really is,” said Neil.

“The two centre-backs who he was up against are strong boys, so it just goes to show how physically dominant he can be,

“We wanted to try and get out from the back but Reading tried to stop that by pressing.

“So Jordan provided the outlet, we could clip it up to him and play from there.

“Jordan is a rare breed, a big centre-forward who can link the game as well as he does and carry a goal threat.”