Simon Grayson, the Preston North End manager, has refused to reveal whether Joe Garner will return to action at Bramall Lane tonight, writes James Shield.
Garner has been absent since November after sustaining a knee injury during the visitors’ win at Bristol City earlier this term but travelled with the rest of Grayson’s squad to Crawley Town last weekend.
Although the 26-year-old centre-forward watched North End’s shock defeat by the League One strugglers from the stands, Grayson said: “We will put him back in once he has done enough training, sharpness work and recovery to make sure he is available for the rest of the season, rather than just in the short term.
“We thought that Joe would benefit from being around the team. What we are not going to do is rush him back because that would be detrimental, we will put him back when we feel it is the right thing to do.”
“It was nice for him to be with the lads and Joe probably wanted a weekend watching football,” Grayson added. “He is a player we have missed and are desperate for him to be back but that time has to be right for Joe.”
Garner had scored 12 goals in 20 appearances before entering the treatment room and North End, who drew their FA Cup fourth round tie against United 1-1 last month, have won six of their 16 outings since.
Should Grayson again elect not to call upon Garner’s services, Kevin Davies or Sylvan Ebanks-Blake are expected to spearhead the visitors’ attack during this evening’s reply against a United team which beat Swindon Town three days ago.
North End have not won in seven outings and Grayson said: “You go through spells as players, managers and coaches when things don’t go for you. We have had one of those months and it is so frustrating.”