Andrew Hughes nearing return to action for Preston North End

Preston left-back Andrew Hughes is nearing a return to full fitness after a hamstring injury
Preston left-back Andrew Hughes is nearing a return to full fitness after a hamstring injury

Andrew Hughes is not far off a return to the Preston squad and almost made it in time for Saturday’s win over Brentford.

The left-back was been out of action since damaging his hamstring at the end of the 3-0 win over Wigan on August 10.

Joe Rafferty has proved to be a very effective deputy since then, even though he has playing out of position.

North End boss Alex Neil had been hoping to include Hughes in the squad for the Brentford game.

But he decided against it on Friday, with Hughes not 100% right to return.

Neil told the Lancashire Post: “Hughesy got up to 97% of his top speed which is as high as you are likely to get.

“But he just felt something was still lingering a little bit.

“It has been improving day on day but I felt having waited this long, we wouldn’t risk him for the game and Hughesy then potentially being missing for longer.”

Hughes might well not have started had he been fit, given the form of Rafferty.

But to have the 27-year-old back available will be a huge boost.

Neil said: “Hughesy is a very good left-back.

“I’m not saying he would have played on Saturday but he would have been part of the squad.

“He gives us some more height, which is important.

“Joe Rafferty has come into the side and been excellent, he is a warrior and a grafter.

“If you ask Joe to do a job he will do it to the very best of his ability. I’ve been very pleased with what he’s done.”

Rafferty was first used as a left-back in the League Cup win at Bradford last month.

He has played in all five Championship games since and was a late substitute in the cup win over Hull.

In the Hull game, Neil played winger Josh Ginnelly as an emergency left-back in order to keep Rafferty fresh.

Whether Hughes is risked in tonight’s Lancashire Senior Cup game against Chorley at Victory Park, remains to be seen.

It would be a chance to get some match action under his belt but Neil will not take any unnecessary risks ahead of a busy spell of games.

The first-round clash with the Magpies kicks off at 7pm, with adult tickets priced £3 if they are purchased before 5pm.

On the turnstiles, tickets are £5 but Under-12s are free.

Clubs have to include six players with a professional contract, which will mean PNE sending a strong side to Chorley.

It might see David Nugent get a run-out as the striker seeks to build up his match fitness after injury.

Since rejoining North End in July, Nugent has played just 45 minutes of a the pre-season friendly at Fleetwood and a bounce game against Salford.