Preston North End left-back Andrew Hughes hoping his injury woes are at an end
If injuries come in threes, Preston North End left-back Andrew Hughes has surely had his quota for the season and can look forward to a run of games.
The Welshman returned to the PNE side at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday after six weeks on the sidelines nursing a broken bone in his foot.
That break came on the back of a torn hamstring and damaged hip flexor, a run of injuries which have limited Hughes’ involvement this season to just six games.
Last season he made 34 appearances, hence a deep sense of frustration at the contrast.
Hughes sustained the broken foot in the first-half of the Lancashire derby win over Blackburn Rovers.
He hadn’t been enjoying the best of starts to the game anyway, playing in the centre of defence.
North End were 2-0 down when Hughes made a run into the Rovers penalty box and suffered the injury.
Not thinking it was serious, he carried on and played his part in Preston roaring back to win 3-2.
“I’ve had a very stop-start season,” said Hughes.
“Picking up three big injuries has been a blow and meant I haven’t got going properly.
“It’s been a game of coming back after an injury, playing a game or two and then getting another.
“They say things come in threes and hopefully that is it for me injury-wise this season.
“It was my hamstring at the start of the season, then I got a hip flexor injury against Birmingham.
“I got the fractured foot in the Blackburn game when I booted someone’s studs.
“It happened in their box in the first half when I’d got forward to support the attack.
“Our first-half display was best forgotten and I couldn’t really come off.
“At the time I didn’t think it was that serious, we’ve all kicked someone’s studs before making a challenge and got up to carry on.
“So when the scan results came back, I was surprised that I’d fractured a bone.
“Initially I thought it was just some bone bruising. When the pain wasn’t shifting, I went for the scan and that showed the fracture.
“The fracture was actually in a weird place on the bottom of my foot, bearing in mind the impact was on the top of it.
“I can still feel it a bit, but I can’t do anymore damage to it. I just want to stay fit now and string a run of games together.”
Not surprisingly, Hughes looked a touch rusty against QPR in the 2-0 defeat.
Hopefully 90 minutes in that game stripped off a layer of rust ready for the clash with Fulham at Deepdale on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
North End will be seeking home comforts, three of the four defeats suffered in the last fortnight coming away from home.
Last Monday’s 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion was their first in the league at Deepdale this season, it taking the most contentious of penalties in the last minute to give league leaders Albion the three points.
Hence there might be a touch more confidence about Fulham’s visit then there might normally be when a side is on such a slide in form.
Hughes is on a long list of defenders who have kept the medical staff busy, the concentration of injuries in one area a cause for concern.
“It is not ideal when you lose players in one position,” said Hughes.
“You can get away with one player out or maybe two, but we’ve had four or five out.
“You are putting lads in who haven’t played regular football, so it does get tough.
“I think we have been unfortunate with the injuries, I don’t think it is the intensity.
“We are all trained to play at the intensity needed in the Championship, we can all do it.
“I don’t know what it is but we seem to get injuries at the wrong time.
“The spirit is still high about the place, we are still in a good place.
“We are in seventh place going into the Fulham game which isn’t a disaster.
“We’ve got to get off this run of defeats quickly, put another good run together.
“Until the other week our form was very good, we hadn’t suffered many defeats and were winning plenty of games.
“In terms of emotion and expectations, you need to find your middle ground.
“If you are going well, don’t get carried away.
“When you start to struggle with results, don’ get too down about it.
“If we approach things that way, keep working hard in training and fingers crossed, get players back, we will be okay. The key for us is getting people fit.
“If you look at our back four from the QPR game, there was only Joe Rafferty who had played regularly.