PNE trio nearing fitness

Preston first-team coach Steve Thompson thinks the Lilywhites are in good shape for the next run of matches after a varied use of the international break.
Jermaine Beckford should be back from hamstring trouble soonJermaine Beckford should be back from hamstring trouble soon
Jermaine Beckford should be back from hamstring trouble soon

The fortnight’s gap in the fixture list presented the opportunity for a few days’ rest in between training sessions on and off the pitch.

PNE’s squad went through detailed tests to assess their fitness after two months of the campaign.

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Some of the players got valuable match practice under their belts in two bounce games, with the focus then turning to Saturday’s clash with Brighton.

Thompson told the Evening Post: “We were in a good vein of form and probably didn’t want the international break to fall when it did.

“But it is part of the schedule and we have tried to make full use of the break.

“At the start of last week, we went to UCLan to use their facilities in measuring the lads’ fitness and seeing where they are at.

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“The players have had their own personal weights and fitness sessions to do, while we have got work done on the training ground.

“We threw in some tough sessions along the way to really work the lads and maintain the hard work they had been putting in during games.

“There were two bounce games against Burnley and Fleetwood which allowed some of them to get 90 minutes.

“In the next three weeks we have got six games, so the fitness levels have to be right and players have to be ready to come into the team if we have to change things.

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“It is all about the squad, the gaffer showed last month that everyone gets a chance.

“Hopefully the last couple of weeks will serve us well going into this next busy period.

“We go to Brighton next and we’ll prepare right for that.

“Brighton are a very 
attack-minded team, their home form is very good.

“But we’ve been doing well and we will go there with plenty of confidence.

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“The next four games are against the Championship’s current top four and it is funny how you get runs like that.

“It doesn’t matter who you play in this league though, they are all tough games.

“Most weeks you will see a shock result, because on their day, everyone is capable of beating each other.

“If over these next few weeks we show the same spirit and level of organisation that we have done in recent games, we will pick up results.”

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PNE should see the return of Jermaine Beckford, Marnick Vermijl and Aiden McGeady – all from hamstring strains – during this next batch of games.

Beckord has not played since the end of August, Vermijl was injured at Brentford last month, while McGeady pulled up in the Aston Villa game.

Said Thompson: “They are all out of the physio room and working on the grass.

“Matt Jackson will get them back as soon as possible but without rushing them.”