‘Warrior’ skipper Greg Cunningham hobbles off as Preston North End suffer first loss

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Alex Neil is hoping Greg Cunningham’s knee injury will not be too serious after the Preston North End skipper limped out of the defeat to Derby.

The left back went down heavily late on in the 1-0 reverse after landing awkwardly having jumped to try and win a header.

Greg Cunningham hobbles off against Derby.

Greg Cunningham hobbles off against Derby.

The Irishman tried to carry on but was ultimately forced off with Neil crossing his fingers that the problem wouldn’t lead to a spell on the sidelines for his captain.

“I think he’s just hyper-extended his knee,” said the North End boss.

“When he comes down his knee bends backwards.

“Greg’s an absolute warrior though.

Alex Neil looks on at Pride Park.

Alex Neil looks on at Pride Park.

“He puts his body through the wringer day in, day out and we’re hoping he will be okay.”

It capped off a disappointing night for the Lilywhites with Matej Vydra’s penalty just before the hour mark inflicting a first Championship defeat of the season on Neil’s side.

The Preston manager conceded his side didn’t hit the heights of the opening two games of the campaign and admitted in hindsight that he could have made more than the one enforced change, Ben Davies coming in for the suspended Ben Pearson.

“I thought we looked a big leggy,” Neil said.

“Sean Maguire made an impact when he came on, Daryl Horgan looked lively when he came on and so did Paul Gallagher.

“Maybe that’s a lesson for me in terms of rotating the squad a little bit for games that come in quick succession.

“I just looked at how young we are as a group and expected us to show the energy we had done for the two games before.

“But we weren’t as fresh as we have been.

“We played 37 minutes at Leeds with 10 men and a lot of the boys had done a real shift for me.

“I can’t question their effort, the only thing we can be disappointed with is our quality in the final third.”

Neil also conceded that Pearson’s absence was evident, the midfielder serving his suspension after picking up the first red card of his career at Leeds.

It meant Davies came in with North End reverting to three central defenders.

“I thought we missed Ben,” Neil said.

“We missed his composure in the middle to put his foot on the ball and build things for us.

“We changed the system and I thought we contained them pretty well in the first half. But for that 12 or 15 minutes after half-time we didn’t cope well enough and ultimately that cost us.”

Gallagher was taken to hospital as a precaution after suffering with blurred vision after taking a knock to the back of the head late on.