Boyle’s back to ease PNE defensive woes

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Andy Boyle is set to come in from the cold and help fill the gaps in the Preston defence for tomorrow’s Deepdale clash with Aston Villa.

The centre-half has not started a Championship match since the final day of last season.

Andy Boyle is likely to start PNE's game against Aston Villa

Andy Boyle is likely to start PNE's game against Aston Villa

His only first-team action this term came in the League Cup defeat at Accrington in August.

But with four centre-backs ruled out for Villa’s visit, Boyle will get his chance.

PNE manager Alex Neil said: “Andy didn’t play at the weekend purely because I thought the strengths which Brentford had were better suited to Calum Woods.

“Now we have Aston Villa coming up which is a different kettle of fish.

“Andy has been playing all the games we have behind closed doors, his attitude has been first-class and he has been waiting for his chance. which may well come.”

Patience is something which Boyle has had to have plenty of since joining North End from Dundalk with Daryl Horgan in January.

He had to wait more than two months for his PNE debut, Horgan in contrast getting his chance straight away.

Absences are stacking up for Preston in their back-line.

Suspension sidelines Paul Huntington against Villa, the skipper having totted up five yellow cards.

Ben Davies is out for a few weeks after surgery to remove his appendix, while Tommy Spurr has had an operation on a damaged medial ligament.

With Greg Cunningham and Tom Clarke long-term casualties, the back-line is very stretched.

Neil has pointed out that all of the injuries are serious and not minor twinges.

“These are not things 
being picked up in training, like a hamstring or a thigh, it is not as if we are over-training them,” said Neil.

“Ben’s had an appendicitis which anyone could have.

“The rest are big injuries in a game situation.

“Greg Cunningham’s came in the game at Derby, Tom Clarke was hurt in a game last season.

“Tommy Spurr’s was in a game on the training ground against Oldham, he did his medial ligament in a block tackle.

“These are all long-term 
injuries, which is sometimes just down to luck.

“What our problem is that it is one area of the squad which is affected.

“If the injuries were more spread out, we could cope a lot better.”

Further up the pitch, North End will have Alan Browne available against Villa.

The midfielder missed the Brentford defeat following his red card at Wolves.

John Welsh is likely to miss a third game in a row because of injury.