Preston North End's problem position which needs addressing this summer

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If there is an area of the Preston North End side which Ryan Lowe has been unable to get settled, it is the left wing-back role.

Lowe has used seven players on the left in his 18 matches in charge with varying degrees of success.

Greg Cunningham, Josh Earl, Andrew Hughes, Joe Rafferty, Ali McCann, Daniel Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen are the seven who have played the role either as starters, from the bench or switched there in a game.

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Clearly it is a position which needs attention in the summer transfer window in order to help Lowe’s 3-5-2 system work smoothly.

Preston North End defender Greg CunninghamPreston North End defender Greg Cunningham
Preston North End defender Greg Cunningham

What could settle the position down is the return of Cunningham after the international break.

The 31-year-old hasn’t played since limping out of the 0-0 draw against Huddersfield on February 9 with a calf injury.

He had hoped to be back before the break but had a slight setback in training.

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The gap in the fixture list should get Cunningham the chance to work on his fitness levels and be back in contention for the visit to Derby County on April 2.

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Lowe holds Cunningham in high regard, with eight of the Irishman’s appearances under the PNE boss being starts.

Earl and Hughes have had starts at left wing-back since Cunningham’s injury but Earl has struggled for consistency and Hughes is more comfortable playing in the back three.

At Luton last Wednesday night Lowe started Ali McCann on the left, having twice used him from the bench there against Bournemouth and Cardiff.

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McCann only lasted until half-time have taken a blow to the face which left him with a nose bleed which the medical staff were finding difficult to stop.

It meant Johnson being moved out to the wing-back slot, Lowe wanting an attacking player there but acknowledging Johnson provides far more from a central role.

Strengthening that role will be on Lowe’s summer to-do list, the wing-back role on both sides of the pitch an important cog in the working of a 3-5-2.

Bringing in a right wing-back will also be a necessity, even though Brad Potts had filled the role quite well since moving there in Lowe’s second game in charge.

Having someone more natural to the role makes sense, with Potts as the alternative.