No risks with Greg Cunningham says PNE boss Alex Neil

Preston boss Alex Neil felt that asking Greg Cunningham to play two games in less than four days was too much of a risk, hence him being on the bench in the New Year’s Day defeat to Middlesbrough.

Left-back Cunningham made his return to the side at Cardiff last Friday night after more than four months out with a serious hamstring injury.

PNE left-back Greg Cunningham in action at Cardiff last Friday night

PNE left-back Greg Cunningham in action at Cardiff last Friday night

He played 82 minutes of the 1-0 win in South Wales but Neil said getting him to do similar on Monday would have been a big gamble.

Instead, Calum Woods played at left-back against Boro.

Neil said: “I had a chat with Greg on the morning of the game and decided to put him on the bench.

“I was tempted to play him but I thought that with Greg having played 82 minutes at Cardiff after four months out with no practice matches, it would have been negligent of me to start him.

“If he had got injured again I would have blamed myself.

“It might have been asking too much of Greg and we had to be sensible.”

Cunningham is likely to continue his comeback in this weekend’s FA Cup clash with Wycombe. That will have given him a gap of more than a week to work on his sharpness after the Cardiff game.

Cunningham was injured in August, the hamstring in his left leg coming away from the tendon.

He underwent surgery to reattach the muscle and has spent the time since building up strength in the leg.

The Irishman’s return to the first-team squad came at Barnsley on Boxing Day, with him an unused sub.

Neil decided to start him against Cardiff, with his experience a key part in the 1-0 win.

A number of players have filled the left-back shirt this 
season.

Cunningham started the season there before his injury, with Josh Earl replacing him.

Knee surgery has sidelined Earl since early November, with Woods, Ben Davies and Darnell Fisher all having had games on that side of the pitch.

Cunningham will now be eyeing a run of games to pick up his match-sharpness, the schedule more spread out in January after the busy run over Christmas.

Neil has given the Preston squad two days off to catch their breath – they will be 
back at Springfields on Thursday morning to begin the build-up to the Wycombe cup tie.

That game is followed by the Championship visit to Millwall on January 13.