Preston boss Alex Neil pondering his options in defence for Sheffield United clash

Alex Neil has had to cope with injuries in Preston's defence for much of his reign so the sight of two centre-backs sat on the treatment table may not have concerned him too much.

Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 1:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 2:11 pm

Huntington was forced off at half-time, Clarke had to see the game through with PNE having used all of their subs.

With the weekend trip to Sheffield United having taken on ‘must-win’ status, North End will be hoping the pair can recover in time.

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Tommy Spurr in his last Preston start against Brentford at Griffin Park in February

Cover is available though, Ben Davies until the QPR game having been first-choice as the left-sided centre-half.

The other central defender available is Tommy Spurr who, when the chance has arisen, has proved to be a more-than-reliable replacement.

Spurr started the season in the team, playing four of the first six league matches.

He then got edged out by Davies and in early October suffered a knee injury which sidelined him until January.

Tommy Spurr in his last Preston start against Brentford at Griffin Park in February

Since returning, Spurr has made just one first-team appearance, in February’s 1-1 draw at Brentford. Spurr was on the bench for the 
following five games but has not featured in a matchday squad since the Bristol City game last month.

Davies has played 33 games in the Championship this term, 32 of those starts.

He had a three-week spell out of the team in October and early November after having his appendix out.

The 22-year-old also missed four matches due to a hamstring injury at the end of January.

Huntington and Davies have been the mainstay in the centre of defence for much of the season, but Neil opted for Clarke next to Huntington at QPR and again for the Norwich game.

Said Neil: “I thought it was the right thing to start with Tom on Saturday.

“His experience was very important because we have a young side with not too much experience.

“With how hot it was, we could not always press as much as usual because we would have run out of steam.

“We needed to be that bit more smart, and experience makes a difference.”

Clarke felt his hamstring tighten after an hour, by which time the three subs were on.

The skipper was strapped up and he soldiered on, even playing up front in the closing stages as North End pushed for a goal.