PNE defender pays the price

Greg Cunningham has totted up five bookings this term
Greg Cunningham has totted up five bookings this term
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Greg Cunningham will see his ever-present run in the Preston side come to an end after the international break because of suspension.

The Irish defender’s yellow card against Aston Villa was his fifth of the campaign, triggering a one-game ban.

It forces him to sit out the visit to Brighton on Saturday, a game where North End will be looking to pick up where they left off, as far as their decent form is concerned.

Cunningham, 25, is the only PNE player to have started all 14 Championship and League Cup games this season.

When Lilywhites manager Simon Grayson rang the changes for last month’s cup tie at Bournemouth, Cunningham was the one player to keep his place from the previous game.

He was booked on the first day of the season at Reading before keeping out of trouble for six matches.

Yellow cards then followed against Barnsley, Brentford, Wigan and Villa.

Cunningham is the first Preston player to serve a suspension this season.

No others are under the immediate threat of a ban under the totting-up rule.

Ben Pearson and Alan Browne are on three bookings apiece – Pearson’s trio of cards coming in only five appearances – while John Welsh is on two.

Former Bristol City man Cunningham is disappointed to be missing out at Brighton.

“It’s frustrating picking up yellow cards but whatever team the gaffer picks, they will do a great job,” said Cunningham.

“I’m obviously disappointed with it being such a big game but that’s part and parcel of the rules.

“I just need to make sure I keep on top of my fitness and be ready for whenever the gaffer calls upon me in the games after that.”

Preston have a ready-made replacement for the left side of the defence in Tommy Spurr.

He has only seen limited action since joining on a Bosman from Blackburn in the summer, starting four games.

The last of those was against Barnsley on September 10, a game in which he was subbed after an hour.

A bout of flu kept him out of the squad for a spell last month and Spurr would have played at Bournemouth had he not been ill.

Spurr can operate at left-back, wing-back and in the centre of defence – all positions which Cunningham has filled this season.

As North End prepare for the Brighton away day, the start of six games between now and the November break, Grayson has a few injuries to assess.

Aiden McGeady pulled up with a hamstring strain late in the Villa game, while Tom Clarke got through that clash with a groin problem.

Jermaine Beckford and Marnick Vermijl are due back soon after hamstring injuries, Beckford’s dating back to the Ipswich game in August.

To keep his squad match-fit, Grayson played a number of the squad in a bounce game at Burnley last Thursday.