Back at the party: Preston midfielder Ben Pearson ready to give Preston a fitness boost

Alex Neil thinks an extra week's rest should ensure a return for Ben Pearson to the Preston side against Millwall this weekend.

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 5:00 am

Pearson, labelled by PNE boss Neil as his ‘talisman’, has missed the last two matches with a thigh injury.

Neil chose not to gamble with the midfielder in last week’s visit to Nottingham Forest – that move paying off with North End winning at the City Ground without him.

Instead he looked at the wider picture and felt that a longer recovery period would benefit Pearson ahead of the busy Christmas period.

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Alex Neil is hoping Ben Pearson will be back for Prestons game against Millwall

Saturday’s Deepdale clash with Millwall is followed by a visit to Sheffield Wednesday three days before Christmas.

Then it’s Hull on Boxing Day, Aston Villa on December 29 and the New Year’s Day trip to Rotherham United.

Neil said: “Ben has been training this week so we are hopeful he will be there to give us a dilemma when we pick the team on Friday.

“Things will have worked out perfectly if Ben is fit for this game.

“He was a doubt for Forest and it was one of those where I could have risked him for the game, potentially not have won it, and risked losing him for four or five weeks.

“We chose to rest Ben and give him more time because we have some important games coming up.

“If we can get him fit for the Millwall game, that would be the ideal scenario.”

Pearson had carried the thigh injury in the matches before the international break last month.

He rested for much of the break and was able to play in the derby win over Blackburn and the Middlesbrough draw.

But there were times in the Boro game where he looked in some discomfort.

If Pearson was back at the weekend, it would further boost the engine room which benefited from the return of Daniel Johnson at Forest.

Johnson had expected to be ruled out for up to six weeks but made it back way ahead of schedule.

While midfield gets back to being fully stocked, gaps have continued to appear in the PNE forward line.

Neil has confirmed that Brandon Barker faces a spell on the sidelines after hurting his hamstring in the first half against Forest.

“Brandon is going to miss a few weeks,” said Neil.

“It’s really difficult at the moment, we are lacking in numbers in one position at the top end of the pitch.

“Lukas Nmecha came in and had a real impact which was pleasing.

“We’ll assess how everyone is and go from there.”

Josh Earl will be missing again for Millwall’s visit, the left-back having strained a thigh muscle in the defeat at Birmingham.