Preston North End in Numbers: Just how much do the Lilywhites miss Ben Pearson when he's suspended?

Ben Pearson will likely return to the Preston North End starting line-up when Alex Neil’s men host Swansea at Deepdale.

According to his manager, the talismanic midfielder is back with a “point to prove”.

Ben Pearson is sent off against Sheffield Wednesday just before Christmas

Ben Pearson is sent off against Sheffield Wednesday just before Christmas

Two red cards this season mean he has already served eight games through suspension with a player so key to North End now beginning to divide opinion.

His quality is clear but can he be relied upon to be on the field more often than not and keep his cool in the heat of the battle?

Given that some fans are losing patience with the combative midfielder, it’s worth taking a look at how much PNE have actually missed his presence in front of the back four.

Of the eight games out this campaign seven have been in the league and one in the FA Cup, last Sunday’s home defeat to Doncaster Rovers.

In the Championship North End have picked up just two points without their No.4.

After his red card against Bolton in September for his clash with Joe Williams at the final whistle, PNE lost all three games against Reading, Leeds and Sheffield United.

He then picked up a fifth booking of the season in the 4-0 home win over Wigan in October meaning he missed the draw at Hull.

The second red card for his challenge on Marco Matias at Sheffield Wednesday came just before the crucial Christmas period, PNE picking up just the one point in the three league games that followed, the 1-1 Deepdale stalemate with Aston Villa.

Last season, after the first red card of his career in the 0-0 draw at Leeds, PNE lost 1-0 at Derby the following Tuesday night.

Pearson then missed the 1-1 draw at Norwich in November 2017 after reaching five bookings, hitting double figures in terms of yellow cards seeing him sit out a further two matches in February of last year.

They were two more 1-1 draws at Brentford and at home to eventual champions Wolves.

In total that’s three points from four games.

In 2016-17 under Simon Grayson Pearson missed six games after picking up 16 yellow cards across the season.

The Lilywhites fared far better without the suspended midfielder in that campaign.

They beat Rotherham at the New York Stadium and Brighton at home, also drawing at Aston Villa and in the reverse fixture with the Millers.

There were defeats however against Norwich and Newcastle at the tail end of the season.

The reality is PNE are a better side with Pearson and Neil, who rates him so highly, will hope his disciplinary issues are soon a thing of the past.