Preston North End’s Andrew Hughes looking to continue comeback when Leeds United come to Deepdale
Andrew Hughes hopes to have put his bad luck with injuries behind him after returning to reclaim the Preston North End left-back role.
The Welshman made only his fourth appearance of the campaign in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Reading.
A damaged hamstring kept him out for six weeks and then in his comeback game he got a painful knock on his hip flexor.
Having missed the last few weeks of last season too, Hughes is itching to get a run of games under his belt.
“These last few weeks haven’t been the best for me,” said Hughes.
“It started against Wigan with my hamstring. I think it was the last run of the game when it went on me.
“As soon as I felt it go, the referee blew the whistle for full-time.
“I was out for a few weeks with that and then I came back for the Birmingham game.
“During that game one of their lads came into the side of me and I felt my hip flexor after that.
“That was a contact injury and there’s nothing you can do to avoid those.
“I managed to get through the rest of the game but then needed time to let it settle down.
“Having worked hard to get back from the hamstring, it was bad luck to get the hip flexor injury.
“What made it a bit more frustrating was that it was the other leg.
“I got one leg fit and then hurt the other. Hopefully the injuries are behind me now and I can stay injury-free.”
The impact of Hughes, 27, being absent was lessened by Joe Rafferty stepping in as an emergency left-back and impressing for the best part of two months.
When Hughes got the nod to start the Reading game from Alex Neil, there was a great deal of sympathy for Rafferty as he took his seat among the substitutes.
Hughes is quick to praise what Rafferty did in his absence.
“Joe has done very well,” said Hughes.
“Massive credit to him, to play a different position for a number of games shows his flexibility.
“Fitness-wise, I feel fine now. The Reading game was not the best from our point of view but being able to get through it was personally very pleasing.
“Our squad strength means we don’t have to rush back, we can get fit properly.”
Next on the agenda for North End is Tuesday night’s clash with Leeds United at Deepdale.
It is a clash of sixth versus second in the Championship, with two points separating the clubs.
If PNE can get the better of Marcelo Bielsa’s outfit, it would be the perfect way to bounce back from the loss at Reading.
It would also set them up nicely for Saturday’s derby clash with Blackburn.
Said Hughes: “You can see how tight things are at the top of the table.
“If we could get three points that would really put us up there.
“It would be nice to get the run going again after what happened at Reading.”
Only one of Hughes’ four appearances this term have come at Deepdale.
So the opportunity to play under the lights in front of the faithful is something he is looking forward to.
Hughes said: “Our home record has been very good this season.
“We base our game on closing teams down and not letting them get time on the ball.
“We’ve been out-working teams and we want to carry on doing that.
“For some reason teams don’t like coming here at the moment, it’s almost as if thy are mentally down about it.
“We love playing at Deepdale, it’s a good place to be.”
The defeat at Reading brought to a halt North End’s eight-game unbeaten run in the league.
It had started with a 3-1 win over Stoke in August, the run featuring five victories and three draws.
Reflecting on the strong start, Hughes said: “Going off how we started last season, you just can’t compare the two. We have been so strong in games.
“Last season we signed quite a few players and maybe it took some time for us to gel.
“The extra games we have played together might now be giving us that extra one or two per cent.
“Our focus now is playing Leeds. Having lost on Saturday, the best thing is to have a game on the Tuesday night to try and put things right.
“We were all disappointed at what happened at Reading but we have to put it behind us and go again.
“We know where we have to be better and we are all looking forward to getting back on the pitch.
“Leeds are a good team and we will have to work hard to get something from the game.
“Being at home it is up to us to impose ourselves on the game, be positive and see where that takes us.”