Preston North End boss Alex Neil reveals why he held back Andrew Hughes

Alex Neil took a cautious view with Andrew Hughes by not putting him straight back in the Preston squad for the draw with Swansea City.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 6:00 am

The left-back was expected to be involved in some capacity following his recovery from a sprained ankle, the latest in a series of injuries he has suffered this season.

Hughes, 27, played more than an hour of last week’s Lancashire Senior Cup tie with Blackburn Rovers to test his ankle.

But mindful of the Welshman’s injury record, North End manager Neil chose to give him more time to work on his fitness.

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North End left-back Andrew Hughes

Neil opted to continue with Joe Rafferty at left-back and the defensive cover on the bench came from club captain Tom Clarke.

“The thing with Hughesy is that three times this season he has come back from injury, played a couple of games and has then broken down with something else and been out again,” said Neil.

“He had three training sessions and 60 minutes in the cup game which I just didn’t think was enough to be on the bench ahead of other lads who had been fit and training.

“Hughesy knows he has to fight his way back into the team and squad.”

With a clear midweek to work on his fitness, Hughes might be in a stronger position to push for a return to the squad at Wigan on Saturday.

That is the first of three games in a week, with a trip to Stoke next Wednesday and then a Deepdale clash with Millwall on February 15.

This season Hughes has spent time on the sidelines with four injuries.

He damaged his hamstring, suffered a contact injury to his hip flexor and broke a bone in his foot. Then he rolled his ankle in the New Year’s Day clash with Middlesbrough. Rafferty has been Hughes’ deputy this season, doing very well in the main.

He had a tricky customer in Andre Ayew to deal with against Swansea – it took a while to get to grips with him.

Said Neil: “Defensively on Saturday we were fine.

“We lost a couple of headers in the second half which we should not have done.

“They played a lot to Ayew in the first half and we lost two or three headers there.

“I thought Joe tidied that up and dealt with it a lot better.”

In terms of PNE’s attacking play against Swansea, Neil felt both of the full-backs had a role to play.

Right-back Darnell Fisher had more joy on that score than Rafferty on the left.

Neil said: “At times there was not a lot of space to play in and our outlet came in the full-back positions.

“More so with Darnell on the right rather than Joe, who is a right-footed player playing on the left.”