Alex Neil says Preston will miss the ‘terrific’ Andrew Hughes after the left-back was ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Hughes’ absence though, opens the door for Josh Earl and Lilywhites manager Neil is confident he can fill the void over the coming weeks.
Earl played at Reading last week and the 20-year-old is set to face Sheffield United at Deepdale today.
A split in his hamstring tendon is the injury which will keep Hughes out for the last few weeks of the campaign.
The Welshman won’t need surgery to repair it, time the big healer for him.
He had been one of PNE’s most consistent performers when they went unbeaten for 12 matches, hence his absence being a big blow.
Neil said: “When you look back, Hughesy probably took a little bit of time to settle in with us.
“He did okay to start with, then I took him out of the team to give Josh an opportunity.
“When Hughesy got back in, from that points onwards his form was superb.
“He took a lot of confidence and what I was really pleased with, was when I put him back in there was a determination not to lose his spot again.
“His performances from then on were terrific.
“We want him to come back fine from the injury and we will see the best of him again next season.
“Fortunately Hughesy doesn’t need an operation, the tendon is still in tact but has a split in it.
“That will mend in its own time.”
Hughes, 26, was injured in the 1-0 win over Birmingham City before the international break.
That was his 34th game of the season, with him playing the most minutes of the PNE squad in the league.
Earl now gets a chance for a run in the side, something which had eluded him up to now this season.
“It is crucial for Josh and for us that he comes in and does well,” said Neil.
“He has been patient up to now in terms of him getting an opportunity.
“When he did get a chance earlier in the season, Josh got a quad injury which kept him out for a while.
“I’m sure he would have wanted to play more games
“We have a crucial period of games and it is up to him to show what he is capable of.”
Hughes’ name is on a lengthy injury list as North End hit the last month of the regular season.
Said Neil: “I haven’t had a full squad to pick from at any stage this season.
“It seems that be one in and two out or one back and one out, that is really frustrating and difficult.
“You always get injuries, knocks and suspensions but ours have been much more.”