Tom's all right!

Tom Clarke in action at Derby in midweekTom Clarke in action at Derby in midweek
Tom Clarke in action at Derby in midweek
Tom Clarke looks like being the man to solve Preston's right-back shortage.

The Deepdale skipper played in the role in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Derby and did it effectively.

Clarke’s usual slot in the centre of defence was taken by Andy Boyle who enjoyed a very good debut.

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It seems likely that North End boss Simon Grayson will stick with the same for today’s clash with Reading.

Grayson has been hit by a spate of injuries recently at right-back.

A knee injury has sidelined Alex Baptiste since the first week of January.

Baptiste was joined on the injury list by Marnick Vermijl last month when the Belgian had a hernia operation.

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A few days after Vermijl went under the knife, Tyias Browning picked up a knee injury in training.

With Calum Woods ruled out for the whole season after tearing knee ligaments in July, options have been limited.

Grayson initially went with a 3-4-3 formation, that system using a wing-back rather than a conventional right-back.

Then Greg Cunningham moved across the pitch from left-back to fill the vacancy,

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With Clarke at right-back at Pride Park, it gave Preston a better balance.

The 29-year-old played a number of games in that role earlier in his PNE career.

Grayson was reluctant to move Clarke out of the centre of defence initially.

But he decided the Derby game was the time to bring in Boyle and move Clarke to the wider slot.

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“The last time Tom played at right-back was at Burton in January when he came up with the winning goal,” said Grayson.

“You know what you are going to get from your captain, he’s not going to let you down.

“I just felt the balance was right with him there.

“Tommy Spurr was also a bit fatigued so we decided to take him out of the defence.”

The performance of Boyle in the middle was a big plus for Grayson.

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Boyle has had a wait of more than two months for his PNE debut since arriving from Dundalk in January.

“Andy did really well and looked comfortable,” said Grayson.

“I’d said a few times that it was always going to take Andy a bit longer to get into the team unless he was outstanding in training and others were struggling for form.

“Further up the pitch you have the licence to put people in and mistakes there don’t count as much.

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“As a defender, you are part of a unit, players form strong partnerships.

“At the top end of the pitch, it is a bit more off the cuff.

“Andy has worked hard in training sessions when we have done the structured stuff and he took his chance well on Tuesday night.”

Grayson thinks it will not be until Nottingham Forest’s visit to Deepdale on April 1 that he has more options available for the right-back shirt.

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He said: “I would have thought that Marnick and Baps will be the first two back.

“Calum Woods is making good progress, he is working hard out on the grass doing a lot of running.

“I don’t think we will see him this season, as a precaution we will let him get right the way through this season.

“Psychologically it is a big boost that he is doing a lot of running with the physios.

“Tyias is also making good progress – he is back at times with Everton.

“You never know, we might get one back for Blackburn next week but it is looking more like April.”