Injury blow for PNE skipper
Preston North End were left fearing the worst after captain Tom Clarke limped out of the defeat to former club Huddersfield Town on Good Friday.
The Lilywhites skipper went down innocuously enough just 16 minutes into the piece but was forced to hobble off to warm applause at the John Smith’s Stadium. Boss Simon Grayson revealed post-match that the problem was the defender’s Achilles tendon and that he could be ruled out for some time.
“It doesn’t look too good at the moment,” he said.
“It’s not 100 per cent clear but it looks like he’s done some serious damage to his Achilles tendon. It’s obviously going to rule him out for the rest of the season and maybe longer.
“We’ll know more in the next 24-48 hours but it doesn’t look too good unfortunately. He’s been exceptional for us this season as our captain.
“To suffer the injury is a big blow for him and the team.”
Despite the loss of their talisman, North End went in front through an Aiden McGeady stunner shortly after.
Huddersfield turned the game on its head though with Elias Kachunga profiting from a Chris Maxwell error shortly before half-time and Jack Payne putting the Terriers in front 20 minutes from time.
Jordan Hugill then headed home an equaliser on 79 minutes but the biggest drama of the afternoon was still to come.
Kachunga went down under challenge from Hugill off the ball deep into stoppage time with referee Lee Probert pointing to the spot.
Maxwell saved Aaron Mooy’s penalty, only for Colin Quaner to fire home the rebound in the 96th minute and leave Grayson fuming.
“I don’t know how the referee can give it when he’s got Kachunga in front of him with Jordan behind him,” he said.
“It’s not as if he’s at the side and he can see the decision.
“I’ve been in to see the referee and he’s saying he’s pushed him and stamped on him from behind but he must have some decent vision to be able to see that.
“Jordan’s adamant he’s not done anything.
“I don’t go and see referees that often but I do if I feel I’ve got a genuine complaint.”
It was a moment that ruined a good PNE performance and all but ended the Lilywhites’ play-off hopes, Grayson’s side 11 points back in ninth with four games to play.
“We had a game plan and I thought we carried it out well,” he said.
“We deserved to go in front and gave away a couple of sloppy goals but we showed real character and real desire to get something out of the game and it was taken away from us.”