Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Is opportunity knocking for two PNE defenders?

For differing reasons Paul Huntington and Bambo Diaby have had to add patience to their defensive armoury.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 4th March 2022, 4:45 pm

One of them could be thrust into Preston North End’s back three for the game against Bournemouth at Deepdale, a vacancy having arisen in Ryan Lowe’s plans.

Liam Lindsay definitely isn’t available because he’s suspended and there is a question mark against Patrick Bauer’s fitness, with him having already missed one game with a hip injury.

So having had a rather settled back line – Sepp van den Berg, Bauer and Andrew Hughes – Lowe is having to consider others and encouraging them to take their chance if it comes.

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Preston North End defender Paul Huntington

Lindsay has done that in the last few weeks, getting three starts and a lengthy substitute’s run during February before last week’s red card at Coventry stalled his progress.

Now there could be a chance for Diaby or Huntington to get a game and catch their manager’s eye in Championship action rather than just in training.

Diaby’s PNE debut came as a sub in stoppage-time last week, his first taste of league action since January 2020 due to a two-year suspension from the game imposed for taking a banned substance.

All he’d had in terms of game time since the suspension ended was 70 minutes in the reserves against Bolton a couple of weeks before.

Bambo Diaby warming-up before Preston North End's game at Millwall in February

He seems a popular guy around the Lilywhites squad and the North End faithful have already taken to the former Barnsley man despite not really having the opportunity to clap eyes on him.

Diaby’s route to PNE has been a touch different than most signings. Born in Senegal, raised in Spain, with a career having taken in stops in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Yorkshire, before he landed at Euxton.

He’s on a ‘prove yourself’ deal until the end of the season, the opportunity there to try and earn a longer stay.

Talking of long stays, Huntington has been with North End since July 2012 and here we are discussing a potential further chapter in his book of PNE comebacks.

A few times he’s been out on the fringes – sometimes even further out – but battled back to make another run of appearances.

If Huntington does get on the pitch against Bournemouth, it will be his first senior appearance for 51 weeks.

He lasted featured in the first-team in the 1-0 defeat at Wycombe on March 13 last year, three games from the end of Alex Neil’s reign.

Neil and Frankie McAvoy have gone in the meantime, with Lowe establishing himself nicely in the PNE manager’s role, that just emphasising the length of time Huntington spent out of the squad.

Part of that was due to health reasons in pre-season when tests found he had very low irons levels.

Credit to him, he got back to fitness and health, and made the registered squad from late September through to the end of January.

Huntington wasn’t in the squad re-registered after the close of the January transfer window but the door has always remained open courtesy of North End leaving a slot free in the 25-man squad.

If he’s to be involved in the Bournemouth game, we can assume his name has been added to the register with the EFL in recent days.

Whoever gets the nod, whether it is Huntington or Diaby, or Lowe pulls one out of leftfield with his selection, I just hope they give a good account of themselves.

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North End’s play-off chances have slipped of late, with the Reading defeat followed by good performances against Nottingham Forest and Coventry but alas just two draws.

The distance between themselves and the top six has increased and Lowe’s men have played two games more than the sides above them.

Bearing in mind Lowe came in with PNE 19th in the table, it’s been a decent climb with only the number of drawn games holding them back.

Just think what the position might be had they held on at Coventry, had they been able to puncture the defences of Forest and Huddersfield at Deepdale.

The fixture list has now started stretching out rather than the manic schedule we had in January and much of February.

Bournemouth’s visit here is the last home game until the April 5 derby with Blackpool.

In between are three away matches – Cardiff, Luton and Derby – together with an international break.

What will the landscape on and off the pitch look like by the time we’re back together in a month’s time?

Just touching back to the Coventry game last week, there was another big PNE following and the faithful were tantalizing close to being able to celebrate an away victory.

We’ve run over the script plenty of times since, the pitch invaders, the time added on.

The PNE and Coventry camps disagreed over the stoppage-time issue and it’s time to put that one to bed.

But what needs to be addressed, and we’re talking football as a whole here, is the recent increase in fans coming on to pitches.

They are not just isolated incidents anymore, it’s happened a lot over the last few weeks.

For three Coventry fans to get on the pitch at different times was ridiculous, the fact one of them made it back to the stand where his pals stopped stewards apprehending him, was annoying to say the least.

A Preston supporter got on to the playing surface after Daniel Johnson’s goal, so it wasn’t entirely a one-way thing.

Coventry boss Mark Robins had it right post-match. As he strongly pointed out, the players have earned the right to be on the pitch, it’s not the place for supporters to be. It needs stamping out and fast.