Ben Pearson will be fine for Preston’s final-day decider with Burton

North End midfielder Ben Pearson
North End midfielder Ben Pearson

Alex Neil has allayed fears over Ben Pearson’s fitness after he finished Preston’s victory over Sheffield United on one leg.

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The battling midfielder twice had to be treated on the pitch and hobbled through the closing stages as PNE hung on for a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane.

But North End boss Neil said it was nothing worse than a bout of cramp and Pearson should be fine for Sunday’s big clash with Burton Albion at Deepdale.

Pearson needing to be treated further infuriated the Sheffield United fans, who were far from happy about PNE running the clock down as they protected the lead.

Neil said: “Ben is okay, he was suffering from cramp and that wasn’t manufactured in terms of him going down.

“But I could understand the frustration that went with it when the game was slowed down.

“He was struggling with cramp for the last 20 minutes or so but we had used all our substitutes by then.”

Pearson has been the heartbeat of PNE’s midfield this season.

He has been having to watch his step in recent games with him walking a disciplinary tightrope. The 23-year-old Pearson is on 14 bookings and one more would trigger a three-match suspension.

Darnell Fisher drew level with him on 14 yellow cards in the Sheffield United game and needs to avoid trouble in the Burton game.

To make the play-offs, the Lilywhites must beat Burton on Sunday and hope Derby lose against Barnsley.

Both Burton and Barnsley need the points at the other end of the table.

They are level on 41 points, with the Tykes out of the drop zone by reason of a better goal difference.

The theme of teams near the top facing sides needing points to avoid the drop, continues with Cardiff facing Reading and Fulham playing Birmingham.

Cardiff and Fulham are in competition for the second automatic promotion slot, Cardiff holding the upper hand at the moment.

To be in with a shout of overhauling Derby, North End will have to buck the trend of not having won on the last day of the season for quite a while.

Their last final-day win was on May 7, 2011, when they beat Watford 3-1 at Deepdale with goals from Barry Nicholson, Iain Hume and Jamie Proctor.

That victory came when they were already relegated.

In the six seasons since, they have drawn twice and last four.