Ben Davies should return for Preston North End at Charlton Athletic this weekend

Preston centre-back Ben Davies
Preston centre-back Ben Davies

Alex Neil expects to have Ben Davies back available for the televised clash with Charlton on Sunday after the defender sat out the win over Blackburn through injury.

Davies failed a fitness test on the morning of the Rovers game, his absence bringing to an end a run of 32 successive starts in the Championship.

Andrew Hughes replaced him at centre-half with Neil keen to have a left-footer in there for balance.

But it was a selection which somewhat backfired, Hughes rusty after recent injuries and playing out of position from his usual left-back role.

North End conceded twice in the first 11 minutes but were able to mount a comeback in the second half to win 3-2.

Hughes looked a lot more comfortable when Preston got on the front foot.

“Ben had a fitness test in the morning and I was really expecting him to pass it,” said Neil.

“That is why I hadn’t done a lot of work with Hughesy.

“Generally if someone is out and I’m bringing a player in, I would do quite a bit of work with whoever it is to get them familiar.

“I didn’t do that because I was almost certain Ben would be fit to play.

“It’s nothing serious and I would expect him to be fit for the next game.”

The other options for Neil as a replacement for Davies were Jordan Storey and Paul Huntington.

Storey, last season’s young player of the year, has been limited to three starts in the League Cup and one run as a sub in the Championship.

Huntington’s one game this campaign came in the cup game against Hull, one in which he scored in.

Said Neil: “What I had to bear in mind was that I had Joe Rafferty at left-back.

“If I’d gone with Jordan Storey, there would have two right-footed players on that side of the defence. Because we were looking for Paul Gallagher to drop on to that side to get the ball, the balance wouldn’t have been right.

“Joe Rafferty had played very well recently. Like the rest of the team he was poor in the first half but very good in the second half.”

Davies’ last absence with injury had come at the turn of the year, with him missing four games after suffering a hamstring strain on Boxing Day against Hull City.

He returned to play the last 19 games of last season and the first 13 league matches of this campaign – he also featured in the League Cup clash with Manchester City.

The 24-year-old having been sidelined in the 3-2 win over Rovers leaves Declan Rudd and Patrick Bauer as the only North End players to start every league game this season.

Meanwhile, PNE have sold more than 600 tickets for Sunday’s visit to Charlton.