Preston's defensive injury crisis the worst boss Alex Neil has seen in 20 years in football

Andy Boyle made his first Championship appearance of the season against Aston Villa.
Andy Boyle made his first Championship appearance of the season against Aston Villa.

Alex Neil admitted he’s never known an injury crisis like the one currently hitting his Preston squad.

Calum Woods and Josh Earl picked up medial knee ligament injuries in the 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa last night meaning he now has seven potential members of his backline on the sidelines.

Club captain Tom Clarke, nominated stand-in skipper Greg Cunningham, Ben Davies, Tommy Spurr and Marnick Vermijl are all currently out while Paul Huntington also served a one-game ban at Deepdale.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Neil.

“I’ve been in football since I was about 16 and I’ve never known as many injuries at any club at one time.

“It really is hampering us. If you go to any club and say your first five centre backs aren’t going to be available then they’re going to look at you and say they’ve got a problem.

“We’ve got two left backs who have been playing this season who are now unavailable.

“Our second choice right back who was Calum is now unavailable.

“The fact is the only fit defenders I’ve got at the club are Kevin O’Connor who played his first league game tonight, Andy Boyle who has made his first start this season and Darnell Fisher.

“That’s basically what we’ve got.

“We’ve got to try and find a way to patch that up and make it good enough to go somewhere and be effective enough to win.”

Neil all but ruled out moving into the free agent market, his only option for strengthening the squad with the transfer window shut.

“If you can find a centre back that can make a difference in the Championship for nothing then you can pass his number onto me,” he said.

“That’s extremely difficult to find. There’s not many of them floating about.

“I haven’t really thought any further about that. I need to assess how they’re going to be and then we need to come to some sort of solution this week to get us ready for Saturday.”

Boyle made his first Championship appearance of the season in the centre of defence and such was the shortage of numbers he was partnered by Alan Browne in the second half.

Kevin O’Connor also made his league debut off the bench at left back.

Goals from James Chester and Robert Snodgrass had already put Villa in command after a poor first-half performance.

“The disappointing thing was we defended better with a patched up defence in the second half than we did in the first half,” said Neil.

“But apart from the corner where they score and the second that we gift them I think they have one opportunity to score which Chris Maxwell makes a save from.

“Other than that they weren’t peppering our goal.

“At key moments in the game they put the ball in the back of the net.”