Preston North End boss Alex Neil presents a case for the defence

Alex Neil is keen for Preston’s defence to get the recognition it deserves for its part in the midweek victory over league leaders Reading.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 8:00 am

It was something of a thrown together back four which kept a second clean sheet in Championship action this season

Paul Huntington came in for his first league start since July, partnering Jordan Storey at the heart of the defence.

Right-back Darnell Fisher got through 90 minutes just a few days after limping out of the Birmingham game with cramp in his hamstring.

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Preston defender Paul Huntington jumps with Reading striker Lucas Joao

Joe Rafferty switched to left-back, not his natural side on the pitch but one he looks quite comfortable playing.

Patrick Bauer and Andrew Hughes joined Ben Davies on the injured list, leaving Neil with reduced options.

Huntington really stood out on the night, helping to shut down the threat of Royals striker Lucas Joao.

Neil said: “I’d like to give a special mention to big Hunts, he hasn’t played a lot of football but I thought he came in and gave a real good, solid, steady man’s performance.

“We had some big players missing at the back, Ben Davies was missing, Andrew Hughes was, Patrick Bauer was, Ben Pearson was.

“Yet we still managed to churn out what we did and got a clean sheet.”

Neil was relieved to see Fisher come through 90 minutes, there obviously having been concerns over his hamstring.

After more than a month out with the injury, he played 65 minutes of his comeback game against Birmingham before the hamstring cramped up.

Said Neil: “Darnell is one of those lads who will dig in for you and give you everything they have got.

“The problem he had last Saturday was that he hadn’t played for a while.

“He’d barely trained because there are not many training days at the moment because of the matches coming Saturday/Wednesday/Saturday.

“You can’t play bounce games at the moment because of Covid so it is difficult to get lads minutes if they’ve been injured or not in the team.

“Darnell had cramp in the last game but got back to play at Reading and we’ll need him to do that again on Saturday.”

Neil is not sure if he will have any of the injured players back for tomorrow’s clash with Rotherham at the New York Stadium (3pm).

Bauer’s injury is not thought to be too serious, with Hughes the longer potential absence with a hamstring issue.

“Patrick wasn’t as far away from making Reading as Andrew was,” said Neil. “It’s a bit of a problem for Andrew and we’ll probably find out more over the coming days.”