PNE sweating over fitness of Sean Maguire

Preston are holding their breath over Sean Maguire’s fitness after the Republic of Ireland international limped out of the draw with Fulham.

Maguire lasted less than half an hour at Craven Cottage but in that time set-up PNE’s opening goal for Jordan Hugill and then scored the second.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire

It was a 2-0 lead which they were unable to hang on to, the Cottagers halving the deficit from the penalty spot with 16 minutes left and then levelling in the 96th minute.

The equaliser came when Chris Maxwell dropped a cross at the feet of Denis Odoi.

Striker Maguire pulled up as he started a counter-attack after taking possession just outside the PNE box.

When he walked across the pitch from the dug-out to the tunnel at half-time, his right leg was strapped.

Later in the second half Tom Barkhuizen also came off after cramping-up.

North End boss Alex Neil said: “Sean felt his hamstring.

“We are hoping it is not too severe because he is a key player for us as we saw in the first half.

“Tom Barkhuizen hadn’t really trained a lot last week or the week before because he had done his ankle in the last game.

“He’d only done a couple of days training so he fatigued quite early on.”

The substitution of Ben Pearson just before the hour was a precaution, this being his first game in seven weeks.

Neil admitted PNE had run out of steam when trying to hold Fulham at bay.

The loss of Barkhuizen and Maguire, so too the early exit of Pearson, meant they could not play the high pressing game in the same way they had done so well in the first half.

Said Neil: “The lads who came on don’t play with the same energy.

“We couldn’t hunt and press as much as we had done up to that point.

“Saying that, Fulham didn’t create a lot, we conceded from a penalty and a mistake.

“It wasn’t as if Fulham carved us open, they had one good opportunity in the second half when the ball came across goal.”

Although disappointed not to have won, Neil is pleased with now PNE are developing as a team under him.

He said: “We have gone away to Middlesbrough, away to Leeds and away to Fulham, teams who in my eyes look like being contenders.

“We went toe-to-toe with all of them and arguably should have won those games.

“What we need is a bit more quality in the final third areas when chances arise.

“I’m pretty sure if Fulham had four one-on-one chances like we had, they would have probably have nestled in the back of the net.

“I think we can be happy about how we went about our work though.”