Preston North End boss Ryan Lowe explains why Ali McCann played at wing-back in the win against Barnsley

The one surprise of Ryan Lowe’s first team selection as Preston North End manager was that of Ali McCann in the right wing-back role.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 13th December 2021, 12:30 pm

McCann has been very good in a central midfield role since arriving from Scottish side St Johnstone in August.

Hence the move to a wider role raising a few eyebrows, educated guesses after the team sheet was published being that Alan Browne would play there.

Later in the game Browne did move there when McCann was substituted.

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Preston North End's Ali McCann tackles Barnsley midfielder Callum Styles

Lowe didn’t think playing McCann there was an enforced change caused by the absence of Tom Barkhuizen and Matthew Olosunde.

No doubt in his mind was a desire to get an attacking player in the wing-back berth rather than a defender.

McCann and Josh Earl on the other side, were both kept high up the pitch.

Lowe said: “Nothing was forced upon me, I played Ali there because he has that enthusiastic attitude to want to go and play there.

“We felt we needed something a little bit different, Ali is a very competitive lad with good qualities.

“He has loads of energy and I think the distances will have been the best ones covered all season.

“Browney went out there for the last 20 minutes and did the same thing as Ali did.

“I picked a team which I thought could compete and potentially win the game.”

Lowe views wing-backs as being part of his ‘attacking six’ in a team, so the use of wingers or midfielders there in the games ahead could be commonplace.

There’s no timescale yet on the absences of Barkhuizen and Olosunde who are both carrying injuries.

Olosunde made a much delayed PNE debut against Blackburn but came off near the end of a groin issue.

The ankle injury which Barkhuizen is being treated for is a legacy of the challenge on him by Fulham’s Antonee Robinson.

Lowe said last week that Barkhuizen was due to see a specialist to have the injury checked, likewise Josh Murphy.

Cardiff loanee Murphy has been out since October after damaging ankle ligaments in training.

At the time his absence was estimated at a number of weeks and that has proved to be the case.

When fit, 26-year-old Murphy would be another option for Lowe to play in the wing-back role.

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