Midfield trio bolster PNE ahead of Fulham trip

Preston’s midfield is set to be reinforced for the weekend trip to Fulham – but the defence has taken a hit.

John Welsh, Ben Pearson and Paul Gallagher have been back in training ahead of the Craven Cottage clash.

John Welsh should be fit for Preston's visit to Fulham

John Welsh should be fit for Preston's visit to Fulham

Pearson will be carefully assessed though, North End not wanting to take any risks with a player who has been out for six weeks.

At the back, a one-match ban rules Darnell Fisher out, while Tommy Spurr collected an injury in training.

PNE manager Alex Neil told the Post: “Gally is fine, he has been training.

“John Welsh is fine, his calf has cleared up and he’s been training well.

“Ben Pearson has been training this week, which is good to see.

“Obviously we will have a gauge on Ben at the end of the week to see where we think he is at.

“He’s been out for six weeks which is a long time and we need to make sure he is okay.

“What we don’t want is Ben coming in, breaking down and then having him miss the next batch of games.”

Pearson’s last appearance was against Middlesbrough at the end of August.

The return of Welsh last month helped cover Pearson’s absence but he missed the 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

Having at least one option for the sitting midfield role will be a boost for Neil.

In terms of the defence, Neil said: “Darnell picked up his fifth booking in the last game so he is suspended.

“Tommy Spurr picked up a little niggle which is a bit of a blow for us.

“At the moment we’ve got a lot of defenders missing through injury or suspended.”

Two of the injuries which Neil refers to are long-term casualties Tom Clarke and Greg Cunningham. Clarke is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered towards the end of last

Cunningham has been out since August after a tendon came away from the bone at the back of his knee.

Said Neil: “Tom is doing some straight-line running, which is good.

“It was a nasty injury and it will take as long as it takes to mend.

“Greg Cunningham is at the stage where we expected him to be at.”

Goalkeeper Declan Rudd remains sidelined with a thigh injury which had dogged him since the first pre-season game in July.

Neil said: “Dec is making good progress but I don’t want to tempt fate because every time we think he is getting somewhere, he has a setback.

“He’s been unfortunate with his thigh because this is a reoccurrence of the same thing.

“We need to get him right and get him back.”