PNE's Declan Rudd and Tom Clarke bolster their match fitness
Alex Neil was pleased to see Declan Rudd and Tom Clarke come through 90 minutes of Preston North End's Lancashire Senior Cup tie against Bury.
Although admitting that neither were overly stretched in the 2-1 defeat at Carrington, PNE boss Neil said it was a big occasion psychologically for the pair after long injury lay-offs.
A thigh injury had hindered Rudd since pre-season, while Clarke is just back from seven months out with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Speaking at Springfields on Wednesday morning, Neil said: “It was positive for both lads to get through 90 minutes.
“I don’t think either of them were overly tested for the majority of the game, with them stood for spells in their goal or on the half-way line.
“It was big psychologically though, and it will have helped them get their eye in.
“For Declan, he could get his kicking and handling right, his decision-making in when to come off his line and when to stay on it.
“He was able to talk to his back four, get that connection going again.
“With Tom, it was getting his timing for headers – things like that.
“It will have been good for him to get the feel of the ball again in a competitive game, so he will have been pleased with that.”
Rudd has had a frustrating time with injury since joining from Norwich in the summer.
He pulled up with a thigh strain in the opening minutes of the first pre-season friendly at Bamber Bridge in July.
In effect, Rudd aggravated an injury he had suffered when on loan at Charlton last season.
He played in the previous round of the Lancashire Senior Cup against Burnley in early September, the injury flaring-up again.
For the last three games Rudd has been on the first-team bench but this run-up was a game he needed.
Said Neil: “It has taken a bit of time to get Declan going.
“We’ve had a couple of lads like that, Paul Gallagher was in a similar position with having a series of knocks and illness.
“I’m pleased for Declan that he is over his injury now.”
Rudd and Clarke were part of a strong Preston side which was beaten 2-1 by Bury.
John Welsh, Andy Boyle, Kevin O’Connor, Josh Harrop and Daryl Horgan featured as Neil sought to get them game time in their legs.
Marnick Vermijl was down to play but pulled out after the warm-up because of an injury, Tom Stead stepping-in to take the place of Belgian in the back four.