Alex Neil on what makes Preston North End's Ben Pearson the best in the Championship
Ben Pearson played a starring role in Preston's derby win over Blackburn at Deepdale despite not having trained for much of the international break.
The midfielder rested a thigh injury in the build-up to the 4-1 victory and the lack of training saw him succumb to cramp in the closing stages.
Pearson was instrumental in the win by shutting Rovers dangerman Bradley Dack out of the game.
His performance saw PNE boss Alex Neil label him as the best defensive midfielder in the Championship.
Asked about the lack of a threat from Dack to his side, Neil said: “He was playing against the best No.6 in this league, simple as that.
“Ben is sensational at this level, looking at that second-half performance you won’t find a better No.6 in our league. He can do it all. He can tackle, if you want to mix it he can fight and battle.
“If you give him the ball to pass it, Ben can pick a pass.”
North End supporters were worried to see Pearson hobble off in the 82nd minute after twice going down with cramp, leading scorer Callum Robinson having suffered a hamstring injury earlier in the second half.
Robinson, who had scored his 10th goal of the campaign in the first half, will have his injury scanned and looks to be facing a spell on the sidelines.
But if Pearson’s problem was no more than cramp, he should be available to face Middlesbrough at Deepdale tomorrow night.
Neil said: “Ben had cramp and had to come off.
“He hadn’t trained for about a week-and-a-half as he had an issue with his quad.
“That was due to the way Ben decelerates.
“If you watch him closely, he stops very quickly and that had caused him problems. Ben had strained a few of the fibres which meant we needed to come right off him.
“Because he hadn’t trained a lot, that was the reason for him getting cramp.”
Robinson’s hamstring will be assessed over the coming days.
It follows a similar injury to Sean Maguire which he got on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Said Neil: “I can’t say how long Callum will be out at this early stage.
“He’ll have to scanned and we’ll take it from there.
“Callum has been one of our key performers, he got another goal which takes him to 10 for the season.
“I think his best for a full season is 10 or 11, so for him to have got this many before we have reached Christmas is very good.”
Robinson’s 10th-minute goal against Rovers followed Tom Barkhuizen’s opener with just 67 seconds gone.
Louis Moult and Alan Browne netted later on.