Sean Gregan’s exclusive PNE column

Alan Browne in the thick of the action after Bolton keeper Ben Alnwick fumbles the ball
Alan Browne in the thick of the action after Bolton keeper Ben Alnwick fumbles the ball

Preston’s goalless draw with Bolton in front of the cameras was not quite the Friday night bonanza we were hoping for.

It stopped the rot in terms of the run of defeats and the clean sheet was welcome.

However, not to win a home game against a Bolton side in the bottom three, was disappointing.

Yes, Bolton’s form has picked up of late and this was a sixth game unbeaten.

But North End would have been targeting this one as a chance to get three points. The clean sheet was a plus, with the last one having come in September.

I’ve no doubt injuries have played their part in that, with Alex Neil having had to pick a different back four each week.

I know that supporters don’t always want to listen to excuses, but having so much disruption to the defence was always going to have an unsettling effect.

Hopefully the injury list will shorten in the next week or so and there will be more options for Neil.

One defender who was back on the bench on Friday night was Tom Clarke.

He had been out for seven months with a torn Achilles tendon, an injury I’ve had the misfortune to suffer.

It is a nasty one and takes time to heal properly.

With an injury as serious as that one, Clarke will need to be eased back.

But for him to have been on the bench was still a huge bonus for North End.

Clarke is a leader at PNE, a senior figure who no doubt commands a lot of respect in the dressing room.

He will still have been around the club every day, at the training ground and at matches.

But you want him out there on the pitch, being the big influence he clearly is.

It will have felt like a long road back to Clarke. When the other players were 
heading out on to the training pitch, he would have been staying inside with the physio or into the gym for more rehab work.

In the afternoon when the lads head home, it would have been another round of gym work for Clarke.

But that is how you get fit, how you get back to being in the right condition to play.

When you finally get back out on the pitch, all those hours sat on the treatment room table or in the gym, seem worth it.

North End head to Bristol City on Tuesday night, which is a fair old trek for the fans in midweek.

It will be a tough game as City are flying at the moment and up there with the front runners in the division.

Last season, they had that big slide down the division which saw them having to fight off relegation.

They have bounced back well, having backed their manager Lee Johnson and kept faith with him.

Preston will have Jordan Hugill back from suspension for this game, which is good.

They missed his presence against Bolton, Hugill having developed into an integral part of the team.

The way he plays means he will pick bookings up, hence why he was missing on Friday. At least he will come back refreshed for this one.