Preston North End have been handed something of a blow in their pursuit of Championship promotion this season, after manager Alex Neil revealed that holding midfielder Ben Pearson is set to miss the next month of the campaign with a hamstring injury.
Pearson was absent from the matchday squad for his side’s 2-0 defeat at Fulham on Saturday afternoon, which has left them sixth in the Championship table, two points clear of the chasing pack, and it has since been confirmed that the midfielder is set for an extended spell on the sidelines as a result of the issue.
If the injury does indeed keep Pearson out for a month, it is likely he will miss games at home to QPR, Cardiff and Derby, as well as a trip to Kenilworth Road to face relegation-threatened Luton.
So how big a miss will Pearson – who has seemingly emerged as a key figure for Preston over the course of the campaign – be to Alex Neil’s side for those next few games?
Here, we put the spotlight on the 25-year-old’s performances so far this season, in order to find out.
Having featured in 32 of Preston’s 36 league games so far this season, it certainly seems as though Neil has been keen to use Pearson as much as possible this season, and the stats suggest he has been right to do so.
With the midfielder winning more than half of the defensive duels he has entered into this season, it certainly seems as though he has been a useful extra line of defence in front of North End’s back four that has not been easy for teams to break down, thus making it even harder to score – and therefore win – against Neil’s side.
Indeed, with Pearson recovering the ball on average almost three times more per game than he loses it, there can be no denying his importance to the side both in terms of controlling the game, and demonstrating his commitment and determination to keeping his side on top in matches, which is going give both his teammates and fans a sometimes crucial lift in some crucial encounters.
That is something further emphasised by Pearson’s average of more than five interceptions per game, which shows that not only can he win the ball back in one-on-one situations, but also that he has the ability to read the game in a way that allows him to take full advantages of any loose passes or other mistakes made by opposition players.
Add to that a pass success rate of 84.1%, and it is clear to see that Pearson is not only effective when it comes to helping Preston retain possession, but also in terms of using it effectively to dictate the course of games and create the best possible chances for those further up the field in a North End shirt.
What will be even more frustrating for Preston about this, will be that it has come at a time when Pearson is no longer missing the same amount of games through suspension, with his tally of nine yellows cards and no reds from 32 games a significant improvement on the 14 yellows and three reds he picked up in 30 appearances last season.
As a result, it seems pretty clear that Pearson’s presence in the centre of the park for Preston will be a significant miss over the next few weeks, and if they can retain their spot in the play-off places in spite of that, it may well feel like a sure-fire sign that they have the spirit and strength in depth within their side to go all the way in this remarkable battle for promotion.