Preston manager Alex Neil has backed defender Ben Davies to recover from being left out of the team for the victory against Wigan.
Davies has been a mainstay of the defence, starting all but one of PNE’s Championship games until Saturday.
Neil opted to pair skipper Tom Clarke and Jordan Storey at the heart of the back four in the Wigan game, with North End keeping their first clean sheet in the league since the opening day of the season.
Davies got on briefly at the end, replacing Lukas Nmecha in the 89th minute as the clock was run down.
Part of Neil’s thinking with the Clarke/Storey partnership was due to former PNE striker Joe Garner being in the Wigan squad.
As it was, Garner was only a sub and joined the action in the second half. Neil said: “Joe Garner had played their last few games and we know he is aggressive in the air.
“I think Tom and Jordan are very aggressive up there and Paul Huntington wasn’t available because of injury.
“Ben had started every game apart from Norwich but I needed to find a solution at the back which I hadn’t found until this point.
“I felt the two lads went in and did a good job.
“Ben is one of our best young players, no question about that.
“He’ll come back stronger for it and will show how good he can be.”
It was the first time Clarke and summer signing Storey had been paired at the back, Neil having tried a number of combinations over the last two months.
Said Neil: “For me it was about winning the game, the lads to play well and to keep a clean sheet if they could.
“It doesn’t mean we kept a clean sheet because Ben wasn’t in the team. Ben played last year and outstanding for nearly the whole season.
“He is a young lad, this is his second season at the level.
“I think everybody was on a bit of a crest of a wave last year.
“We came in, changed the style and went about things differently.
“The boys took to it really well and had a great season.
“I think the second season can be more difficult and the league is more difficult this time.
“The league has certainly stepped up in quality and we have taken a bit of time to get going.
“Recent performances have improved – Sheffield United, Middlesbrough in the cup, the second half at Aston Villa and Saturday’s game.
“We will take the Wigan win at the weekend and move on.
“Getting those three points have made us a lot happier and we can go into the break with more optimism than we had before.”