Big decision for PNE boss in bid to cover striker’s absence

Alex Neil says it should be an ‘exciting’ test for whoever he chooses to replace Jordan Hugill in the Preston forward line against Bolton tonight.

Suspension keeps Hugill on the Deepdale sidelines, the striker having picked up a fifth yellow card before the international break.

Stephy Mavididi (above) is one of the options to replace Jordan Hugill

Stephy Mavididi (above) is one of the options to replace Jordan Hugill

With hamstring surgery ruling Sean Maguire out for the next few months, it will be a new-look forward line for the televised derby (7.45pm).

Stephy Mavididi, who has been on international duty for England Under-20s, stands out as a natural replacement.

Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen are others who could adapt to a central role.

PNE boss Neil said: “I don’t think we can replace Jordan like for like, we haven’t got that type of player.

“We have got alternatives, players who can play in that position and can do a job for us. It will be a different type of job to what Jordan does.

“We might have to adapt how we use a player.

“However, it is exciting for the other guys who can come in and get an opportunity.

“I am looking forward to seeing how they do.”

Mavididi was back with PNE yesterday morning after his time with England.

Whether his having just one training session ahead of 
Bolton’s visit influences Neil’s thinking, remains to be seen.

Said Neil: “Sean Maguire is a natural replacement but he is also missing.

“We have signed Stephy this year, we have got Callum Robinson, who has played as a centre-forward in the past.”

Defenders also remain in short supply at the other end of the pitch, that as much of a pressing problem for Neil as it his striker issue.

The hint from Neil was that tonight’s game might come too soon for some of the walking wounded. More realistic 
return dates could be on 
Tuesday at Bristol City and then Norwich a week 

Said Neil: “We are getting there, we’ve had another two weeks of recuperating and healing.

“The trouble is that they’ve not got a lot of training into their legs.

“It is going to be difficult to put a back four together.

“Hopefully we will get there over the next week or so.”

PNE will be looking to end a run of four defeats when they take on Bolton.

Neil used the international break to give the squad a rest as well as get through some work at Springfields.

“Last week we has a couple of days’ good training just to flush out the after effects of the previous games,” said Neil.

“We had a day where we spent some time together, then they had a few days off to enjoy the weekend.

“This week we have done a lot of work to prepare for this game.”