Preston will seemingly take to the field this weekend despite coronavirus, with Saturday’s game against Luton Town currently set to go ahead.
North End therefore need to focus on the clash with the Hatters, as they have now lost four of the last five games, and must know their playoff spot is in danger of slipping away.
Preston somehow still sit sixth, but really need to start stringing together some performances in order to keep hold of the final playoff spot.
With Ben Pearson out and both Brad Potts and Paul Gallagher carrying knocks, Preston’s midfield may be tinkered with this weekend – and it may be a chance for Ryan Ledson to make a rare start.
The 22-year-old has started just three Championship games this season, with an additional four substitute appearances to his name – including last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to QPR, as he made a nine-minute cameo.
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Ledson was tipped to be Pearson’s long-term replacement, but has still yet to really show that he can step into that role. Since a harrowing display at right back against Hull City in November, Ledson has only played four times for Preston.
There was a time where Ledson was emerging as something of a scapegoat, as he was blamed for conceding a late goal at Leeds United despite not really doing much wrong. Ledson still has potential, but this season really hasn’t gone to plan for him.
In fact, Ledson may be in danger of seeing his Preston career slip away; we believe that a loan deal was arranged for him in January, but Preston pulled the plug at the last minute, keeping him at Deepdale.
It’s worth noting that, back at Everton, Ledson was highly rated. The Liverpool Echo compared him to Frank Lampard back in 2014, with his tackling and passing praised at the time.
Ledson hasn’t quite lived up to that billing, and Pearson’s absence may just give him a chance to show what he can do. He’s always committed, possibly over-zealous at times when going to challenges having picked up two red cards last season.
If Ledson can’t step in and prove that he is Pearson’s heir, then his future may look a little bleak. Tom Bayliss has already been brought in as Paul Gallagher’s successor, and may leapfrog Ledson in the midfield pecking order next season.
These final nine games could be key for Ledson; he needs to take his chances and show that Neil can trust him again. It’s clear that, right now, Neil prefers Alan Browne as a replacement for Pearson. That has produced mixed results, and Ledson’s introduction last weekend gives him a big chance to feature this weekend.
If he does, then it’s time the real Ledson steps up. It’s time to see the Ledson that was once compared to Lampard, and if we don’t, his future may well be brought into question this summer.