Skipper ready to give injury-hit North End a boost

Paul Huntington is available for PNE's trip to Ipswich after serving a one-match suspension
Paul Huntington is available for PNE's trip to Ipswich after serving a one-match suspension

Paul Huntington will make a welcome return to Preston’s threadbare defence against Ipswich tomorrow.

The centre-half missed Wednesday’s defeat to Aston Villa through suspension but his return provides a degree of comfort as Alex Neil attempts to plug the gaps at the back.

Six defenders will still be missing at Portman Road due to injury and illness.

Huntington not only gives North End another body but also brings vast experience to the side.

It is experience Neil thinks will help PNE return to form after their recent dip.

Neil said: “We will look to piece together a back four and go from there.

“You are always going to miss experience and that is why you want players like Paul back with you.

“What tends to happen is that when you are going well, having a group of young lads is fine.

“When you maybe have a couple of games like Wolves and Fulham where you didn’t get what you deserved, you are in danger of their heads going down.

“Experienced players have been there numerous times before, so they know when to rally the other players and get them ready – make sure you do what is required to get the points.

“It is fine and well playing some nice stuff when you are getting results.

“When you are not playing well, you need to manage the game to get to the point where you get something from it.”

Huntington will slot back in next to Andy Boyle, with Kevin O’Connor getting the nod at left-back.

O’Connor came on for Josh Earl at half-time in the Villa game, Earl having suffered a medial ligament injury.

Calum Woods came off with a similar problem.

Alan Browne ended up in an unfamiliar centre-half role but should be able to return to the midfield tomorrow.

Neil revealed that Browne nearly ended up in a different position from the start against Villa.

“Prior to the match we had worked on playing a 3-4-3 type of shape,” said Neil.

“That was dependant on Villa playing two up front – had they done that we would have played three at the back.

“Alan, although not playing at centre-back, was going to be playing a different position.

“As soon as the teamsheet came in, we saw Villa were playing one up front.

“We couldn’t have three versus one as it would have left us light elsewhere.

“Alan did fine – he is not a centre-back but it really was a needs-must situation.

“I thought the other lads who came in did well – Andy Boyle, Paul Gallagher and Kevin O’Connor.

“Andy will have been happy to get 90 minutes.”