Ryan Lowe’s tactical setup at Preston has often seen some square pegs in round holes.

Lowe is devoted to a 3-5-2, a system that Frankie McAvoy also utilised during his time in charge.

The brutal truth though is that the Preston wasn’t exactly suitable for the Lowe wanted his 3-5-2 to be deployed.

We have seen so many players trialled at wing back; Ali McCann, Daniel Johnson, even Scott Sinclair had a go there.


Yet if one player has really fit like a glove into Lowe’s setup, it is defender Andrew Hughes.

Hughes joined from Peterborough United back in 2018, arriving for a bargain fee of just £200,000.

The Welshman was steady if unspectacular as a left back, serving as a more-than-capable replacement for Greg Cunningham following his move to Cardiff City.

Alex Neil had toyed with Hughes as a left-sided centre back with mixed results, but the 30-year-old has really become one of the first names on the teamsheet in that role.

Hughes started last season as the left-sided centre back in Frankie McAvoy’s back three and is likely to do the same this term under Ryan Lowe.

Left-footed centre backs are in-demand in the modern game thanks to the balance they provide in possession and Hughes certainly did that under McAvoy.

Yet under Lowe, Hughes is a completely different animal.

Lowe is really pushing for his wide centre backs to get forward and support the attack, even overlapping their wing backs.

Jordan Storey is adapting to that role with encouraging results, but Hughes looks like an absolute natural.

Preston North End v Leicester City - Pre-Season Friendly
Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images

Just look at Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Leicester City. North End’s goal came from Hughes basically being in the position of a winger – from open play!

Hughes then put in an inch-perfect cross for Ali McCann to swoop in and head past Kasper Schmeichel.

The key point in this attack was when Hughes played the ball back to wing back Robbie Brady amid pressure from Leicester players.

Yet instead of retreating into his wide centre back role, Hughes carried on going forward, took up a great position and picked up the assist.

Hughes has spent most of his career as a full back so his positional sense all the way up the flank is strong, whilst he is athletically capable as a centre back thanks to his size and decent pace.

Hughes just seems to have all the attributes Lowe would want in that role and Saturday’s assist was perfect proof of that.

Lowe looks likely to continue with the wide centre backs and Hughes looks primed for a big season in that role having already shown how important he can be to Preston’s approach.

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