Contract rebel Ben Pearson WILL drop down the pecking order in Preston North End's midfield

Ben Pearson will continue to train and be available for Preston North End but others are to get their chance ahead of him in the midfield.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 8:00 am

Pearson did not travel to Ashton Gate for Saturday’s 2-0 defeat against Bristol City despite having recovered from ankle ligament damage which had kept him out since early December.

Having turned down PNE’s offer of a new contract and with there being less than six months left on his current deal, the midfielder’s time at Deepdale is running out.

North End boss Alex Neil says priority will be given to others in midfield, with Ben Whiteman handed his debut at the weekend.

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Midfielder Ben Whiteman in action at Ashton Gate

Jayson Molumby came on for Whiteman late in the contest, with Neil keen for the new signings to get game time.

The midfield is well stocked in terms of numbers, hence Neil taking a long-term view of life without Pearson.

The 26-year-old will not be frozen out in any way though, and if Neil felt it was right to use him, he would.

Daniel Johnson and Ben Davies, who are in the same boat as Pearson contract-wise, did play on Saturday.

Whether that is because there is some hope on the contract front or due to others not being available – that particularly in Davies’ case in defence – remains to be seen.

North End sources say there have been no offers made for Pearson at this stage.

If his intention is to stay until the summer and move on a Bosman, Pearson is now allowed to negotiate with clubs outside of England.

So it could be any interest is being fed to his agent rather than to the club.

Celtic were linked with a pre-contract interest in him over Christmas.

Neil felt new boy Whiteman grew into the Bristol City game and thinks he will settle in better with games.

Said Neil: “I think Ben got better as the game went on.

“He is new into the team and we have to give him time to bed in. Ben’s been used to playing for Doncaster which is different from us – he’s now playing at a higher level.

“In the first half he was a bit too safe with his passing but in the second half he started to open the game up with his diagonals.

“When you’ve got players like Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair, you need to get them into good areas and that is what we are looking for Ben to try and do.”

In terms of incomings and outgoings, PNE remain in the hunt for a centre-half and a perhaps a right-back.

A winger might also come on the shopping list if some room in the squad can be freed up, that probably needing Billy Bodin to get a move.

Josh Harrop is close to a loan move, Ipswich one of the clubs interested

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