PNE left-back could return in Sky clash with the Bluebirds

Greg Cunningham could be in line for his first Preston start for more than four months at Cardiff City tomorrow night.

Thursday, 28th December 2017, 5:00 am
Preston North End's Greg Cunningham

PNE manager Alex Neil says the left-back ‘comes into consideration’ for the clash in South Wales.

Cunningham has been out of action since the middle of August when the hamstring muscle in his left leg came away from a tendon.

He had surgery to reattach the muscle and tendon and has been steadily working his way back to fitness.

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Neil named Cunningham on the bench for the Boxing Day draw with Barnsley but was not able to get him on to the pitch at Oakwell.

But he is giving serious consideration to ‘chucking him in at the deep end’ for the televised meeting with Neil Warnock’s men.

Neil said: “Greg will come into consideration for this game because Kevin O’Connor has played a lot of minutes lately after not playing for a long time.

“I thought Kevin looked a bit tired towards the end of the Barnsley game which was only natural.

“Greg, like we did with Tom Clarke, could get chucked in at the deep end.

“He is probably back a bit earlier than expected, all the lads here are eager to get back and desperate to play.

“But we will be careful, like we were with Tom Clarke on Boxing Day, to make sure he doesn’t break down.

“If that was to happen, I would partly blame myself for not protecting them.

“Equally, we want to try and win matches and it is about trying to get a balance between putting your strongest team on the pitch and not jeopardising players who have been out long term.”

After getting Clarke back earlier in the month, being able to select Cunningham again would be a huge boost for Neil.

It was in the latter stages of August’s defeat at Derby that he suffered the injury, just three games into Neil’s reign.

Neil said: “I made Greg our captain when Tom Clarke was out injured.

“He has been an excellent performer for this club for a few seasons now and was the player of the year one season if I recall rightly.

“Greg is a good lad and a key player for us.”

While Cunningham nears a return, North End are likely to be without Darnell Fisher again tomorrow.

The right-back hurt his hip early in the Sheffield United game and the injury is causing some concern.

“We are going to look at this injury in more detail this week,” said Neil.

“It is not going away as quickly as would like.

“Both full-back positions have been a problem at some stage this season, Darnell has been first-choice on the right.”