Alex Neil must reshuffle his Preston North End midfield for the visit of Boro

Preston North End’s midfield is facing another reshuffle both in the short term and longer term.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 7th December 2020, 8:00 am

Ben Pearson and Daniel Johnson will be sidelined for Wednesday night’s game against Middlesbrough through injury and suspension respectively.

Pearson looks likely to be out of action for some time after injuring his ankle half an hour into the 2-2 draw with Wycombe at Deepdale.

He turned one way and his left leg went the other as his studs caught in the turf.

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Ben Pearson receives treatment after turning his ankle

Although he did not need a stretcher to carry him off, Pearson didn’t put any weight on his left leg as he was helped to the dressing room.

Johnson got his fifth yellow card of the season, triggering a one-match suspension.

PNE manager Alex Neil had last week made a great play of finally being able to have Pearson, Johnson, Alan Browne and Ben Davies back on the pitch at the same time.

Having just lost Patrick Bauer to a season-ending injury, it will be an anxious wait for Pearson’s scan results.

Neil said: “Ben just ran towards the ball and changed direction. His ankle got caught in the turf and he’s rocked it.

“Unfortunately when you do that, it can cause damage to your ligaments.

“We’ve just lost big Pat and now we could be without Ben for a time.

“Recently we’ve had Alan Browne playing at right-back and DJ is now suspended, so we are a bit light in there.”

Darnell Fisher’s return from a three-match ban on Wednesday will allow Browne to be released back into the midfield.

Neil felt Pearson limping off with PNE leading 1-0 was a game changer.

Wycombe equalised early in the second half and then took the lead. It needed Jason McCarthy turning a Scott Sinclair cross into his own net, to bring PNE level in the 87th minute.

Said Neil: “We knew that Wycombe would be direct and try to pick up second balls.

“DJ probably wasn’t the perfect one to sink back in there instead of Ben but we had Alan Browne covering at right-back – Alan would normally have dropped in.

“To be honest in the second half in particular, we lost the battle in that central area.

“Adebayo Akinfenwa had far too much influence in the game, the second ball was dropping down and we weren’t winning enough.

“For their first goal no one puts a foot in. If Ben had been on the pitch, he’d have sniffed out the danger and nullified that threat.

“Ben helps us build, we missed that building block.

“With him on the pitch we started well and when we got the goal I thought we would go on and win the game quite comfortably.”

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