Injury could force full-back change for PNE boss

Josh Earl (above) is an option to replace Greg Cunningham who is struggling with a hamstring injury
Josh Earl (above) is an option to replace Greg Cunningham who is struggling with a hamstring injury

Alex Neil is likely to be forced into a left-back change when Preston visit Sunderland this weekend.

The PNE boss rates Greg Cunningham as ‘doubtful’ for the trip to the Stadium of Light because of a tight hamstring.

Cunningham suffered the injury in the first half of last Saturday’s defeat to Fulham and had to be substituted at the interval.

Calum Woods replaced him against the Cottagers but Josh Earl could well come into contention at Sunderland.

Neil said: “Greg felt his hamstring, that is something which is ongoing and we will have to keep our eye on it.

“He will be doubtful for the weekend I would say.”

Earl was not on the bench last week but would seem to be a more natural replacement for Cunningham.

He played 12 games in a row when Cunningham was ruled out for four months earlier in the season after surgery on his hamstring.

Said Neil: “We have got good cover, last week I chose to put Calum Woods on the bench.

“That was to make sure we had both full-back positions covered.

“While we had Tom Clarke who could play right-back, I think Tom against Fulham would have been better served as a centre-back.

“I had to bear in mind too that he’d been out for a few weeks leading up to it.

“We had to make sure we had enough cover for the back four.

“Josh and Calum will be in my thinking for the weekend.”

On the fitness front, Louis Moult has been back training for the last couple of days after a stomach bug kept him out of the squad against Fulham.

Neil said: “Louis was ill for that game.

“His daughter had been ill during the week and I got a call on Saturday morning from Louis saying he had been up all night being sick.

“It was just one of those stomach bugs which tend to go around and Louis is fine now, he’s trained all week.”

As North End prepare for the Sunderland game, Neil feels his side are in good shape for the final run-in.

While Sheffield United leapfrogged them after a 2-0 win over Burton in midweek, they remain four points shy of the top six.

Neil said: “We are four points off sixth place and five off fifth place – we’re chasing two teams.

“We’ve got the majority of the top six teams out of the way, we’ve only got Derby at home left to play.

“Everything is still looking promising and the next game will be crucial.

“That will be the case with every game from now on.

“While it was frustrating to lose last week, I didn’t have anything negative to say about our performance.”