Ali McCann hopes midweek show against Liverpool has put him in the frame to start Preston North End’s game against Hatters

Ali McCann is hoping to finally make an impression in the PNE starting XI, having had to be patient for his first real crack at it.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 4:45 pm

The summer signing from St Johnstone has yet to get a run of games, initially held back and having to make do with substitute appearances before picking up an ankle injury early into his first start.

That knock was picked up against QPR before the last international break as he went to block a shot, and it was feared it could have been quite a bad injury.

In the end, it only ruled the Northern Ireland international out for a few weeks, with the added benefit off a week off too.

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Ali McCann battles with Liverpool’s Harvey Blair at Deepdale on Wednesday night

Having got himself back up to speed, he is now raring to go.

He told the Lancashire Post: “It was about right after the scan results, I feared the worst that night after QPR.

“There are thoughts that go through your head when you’re sat there with the moon boot on thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’

“But it wasn’t too bad, the scan results came back and the physio said roughly three weeks and that’s what I got back in.

“It was a standard sprain on the ligament, I’m sure a lot of footballers get it but it wasn’t as bad as we first thought.

“I feel good, I’m raring to go. I was working hard whilst I was off – well, you don’t get many days off when you’re injured – but I feel ready to go. I’ve kept my fitness up and I’m buzzing to be back.

“I felt like I’d built into it with a few sub appearances and then I got the start, I couldn’t wait for it.

“It was just disappointing to come off so early on.

“I’m hoping I can rack up as many appearances as I can and become a solid player in the side. We said after the Liverpool game that we need to take the mentality and the aggression that we played with on Wednesday into Saturday.

“It gives us the best chance possible to come away with three points.”

McCann has had to watch on as PNE’s form has not been the best in recent weeks, labouring to a draw against Derby, then a come-from-behind win against Coventry City, before the disappointing derby defeat to Blackpool.

The 21-year-old has prided himself on his ability to keep fit so having to watch on from the sidelines has been quite new to him and quite difficult.

He said: “I don’t like it, I don’t even like watching training when you’re sitting inside.

“It’s not why you become a footballer. You just want to be involved, especially on a game day.

“I had to watch the Derby, Coventry and Blackpool games.

“You’re just thinking, ‘I can do a bit to help the team here’.

“But it’s one of them, you just have to deal with it. I’m just delighted to be back. You’re basically just a fan sitting there, you’re wanting the team to do well, willing the team on and hoping we can come away with a result.

“It’s way more nerve -racking watching it than playing in it anyway.”

McCann is expected to come into the PNE side this weekend having impressed in midweek against Liverpool.

Frankie McAvoy is not short of options in that department, with skipper Alan Browne, Ryan Ledson, Ben Whiteman, Daniel Johnson and Brad Potts all fit.

The compeititon, however, is used as a motivator for McCann.

He said: “It drives you on, it’s healthy competition and the standard of midfielders here is brilliant.

“Everyone is a top-quality player and you can see it in training and in games.

“That’s what you thrive on as a footballer and it only makes us all better as individuals as well.

“The more games you play with different players the more you find out about each other and see the way they play and how they move.

“Whoever is in there I know they will do a good job for the team.

“When you get your chance you have to take it because there are such good options behind you, that’ll drive you on to put in good performances.”