A Left-Back Conundrum

With just two days to go before the transfer window closes and a concerning void created at left-back with the departure of Josh Earl, will Preston cope with just one orthodox left-back in Andrew Hughes?

It is increasingly looking likely that we will be left red-faced in the coming days after banking heavily on capturing the signature of Max Lowe. PNE were the only interested party and hoped to conclude the deal early this week, but, as reported in a number of outlets, Brentford joined the race to sign the Derby fullback, completely blowing PNE out of the water with a £1.5m bid that was rejected.

According to Deepdale Digest, Derby now want £2m for the out-of-favour youngster, leaving Preston with minimal time to find a replacement as it is unlikely that we will fork out £2m for a left-back with Josh Earl returning in May.

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With that in mind, does today’s bounce game against Salford City reveal an intention to make do with what we’ve got?

In today’s 2-1 win against Salford, both Darnell Fisher and Joe Rafferty played as the fullbacks.

With both Fisher and Rafferty seen as quite versatile fullbacks, the hope of Alex Neil will be that if Andrew Hughes does pick up an injury, one of our two right-backs will be able to cover for Hughes.

Alex Neil is known for demanding incredible amounts of versatility from his squad, with number ten Alan Browne even featuring as a fullback last season.

Tom Barkhuizen has been used across the frontline, while Paul Gallagher has been utilised as a left-winger, but also a deep-lying playmaker, sitting alongside Ben Pearson.

At Rochdale, Joe Rafferty did play at left-back on a couple of occasions, as well as on the left side of the midfield.

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Although, being a right-footer in the left-back position will mean he has a natural tenancy to cut infield. But with a left-footer in Ben Davies at centre back, this will help give better cover on the left and more balance to the defence.

Most likely, however, will be that Darnell Fisher is asked to cover at left-back and I imagine that this was the case in today’s bounce game.

In the final four games of last season, with Andrew Hughes out injured and Josh Earl lacking confidence, Fisher featured in the LB position with Rafferty at RB.

And although we conceded 12 goals in those four games, Fisher actually registered some impressive statistics.

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Against Sheffield Wednesday in our final home game of the season, Fisher’s passing accuracy was well above his season average. His duel win percentage for that game was also well above his season average.

Clearly, Fisher is fairly comfortable in the LB position and it will be an option should we fail to sign an orthodox LB to compete with Andrew Hughes.

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