Preston almost back to full strength in defence says boss Alex Neil

Alex Neil says Preston North End's defence is in '˜excellent shape' and not far from being back to full strength.

Tuesday, 6th February 2018, 5:00 am

The PNE manager has had Darnell Fisher back in the fold for the last three games.

Greg Cunningham played in the 2-1 win over Hull City on Saturday after a two-match absence, while Tommy Spurr has been on the bench of late on his return from injury.

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Preston right-back Darnell Fisher goes past Hull's Max Clark

With Ben Davies close to full fitness after a hamstring strain, the back line is looking well stocked again.

That is in contrast to a spell earlier in the season when eight defenders were ruled out by injury or suspension.

Neil is keen to have as many options as possible, with him highlighting the right-back slot as a example.

Fisher coming back after five weeks on the sidelines with a hip injury allowed Tom Clarke to move across to the middle when Davies pulled his hamstring.

Preston right-back Darnell Fisher goes past Hull's Max Clark

Neil said: “Darnell Fisher is a right-back and Tom Clarke has filled in there.

“Tom can play there very well and certain games suit him more than others.

“If the opposition has a tricky winger who wants to hug the touchline and drop deep to get the ball, Darnell is better suited to that.

“But if it is a Cardiff type, who bang it forward and you have to win your headers, Tom is terrific.

“Darnell is a solid player for us, he’s really aggressive and really hard to get past, just as Greg Cunningham is on the other side of the pitch.

“Defensively I think we are in excellent shape and we still have arguably one of our best defenders to come back in Ben Davies.

“He won’t be long at all, which is great news.”

North End have a tough run of games coming up, starting with a visit to Brentford.

Their Griffin Park home has not proved to be a happy hunting ground for Preston down the years.

Leaders Wolves then visit Deepdale a week on Saturday, before North End make the trip to Aston Villa three days later.

Said Neil: “Every game at this level is difficult, it doesn’t matter if you are playing top of the league or bottom.

“They are always difficult for different reasons.

“We knew we had to be on our game against Hull as they were fighting for their lives.

“The forthcoming games will be tough in their own way.

“Brentford are a different proposition than Hull were, Wolves will be different to what we will face at Brentford.

“We know what is coming and we have to prepare in the right way whoever we play.”

Neil’s outfit will be well backed at Brentford, with North End having sold more than 700 tickets.

They have been allocated 1,640 terrace and seat tickets.