The sight of Alan Browne limping off at Middlesbrough was a concerning sight for all involved at Preston North End.
At the start of play at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday night the Irishman, perhaps unsurprisingly, led the way when it came to minutes played for the Lilywhites this season.
As last year’s player of the year and a key man in Alex Neil’s near two years in charge, the 11-goal top scorer is going to play whenever fit and available.
But as he was replaced in the first half by January arrival Joe Rafferty that paved the way for another man to move to the top of that chart, and he is perhaps more of a surprise.
Andrew Hughes now sits on 2.902 minutes played to Browne’s 2,892 when it comes to the most time spent on the pitch this season.
That’s some achievement for a player experiencing the Championship for the first time this campaign.
There have been shaky moments as you’d expect for a player making the step up to the second tier, but during PNE’s fine 11-game unbeaten run the former Peterborough man has been a model of consistency.
As well as his own form, Hughes making 33 appearances and scoring four goals thus far, there are other reasons why he leads the way.
It is no disrespect to him to say that North End’s catalogue of injuries means others who might have been out in front have been ruled out, Callum Robinson springing to mind.
Browne himself missed a spell with a hamstring injury with the ankle problem picked up in the North East set to rule him out of this Saturday’s game against Birmingham City at Deepdale.
But having won the battle for the left back spot with Josh Earl, the academy product making 11 appearances, it would harsh to take too much away from Hughes.
With two assists to his name as well, the 26-year-old is second when it comes to aerial duels won per game for PNE, averaging 5.6, a number only surpassed by Paul Huntington.
Hughes’ average of 40 passes per game is third in the North End squad with some 67.5 per cent of those completed compared to a squad average of 70 per cent.
All in all he is a prime example of why large parts of North End’s recruitment should be lauded, the Welshman another player who has worked his way through the Football League and been picked up for a modest sum.
Much like the majority of Neil’s squad he is going from strength to strength at Deepdale.