Zat on standby

First published in Sport

ZAT Knight could get a Wembley audition against West Ham at the Reebok this weekend.

The big defender, sidelined in early February with knee ligament damage, is poised to make a comeback against the Hammers with David Wheater now treading a disciplinary tightrope.

And he could be joined in the squad by Ricardo Gardner, who will return to the club today after a month-long loan at Preston North End.

Owen Coyle is hoping to give himself options ahead of the semi-final against Stoke, and with Wheater just one more yellow card away from a two-game ban, he looks likely to give Knight his first start in seven weeks provided he is completely happy with his fitness at the end of the week.

He came through 45 minutes for the reserves in their 3-0 victory over Blackpool last night, but Coyle will keep a keen eye on him until the end of the week before making his decision.

Gardner could also make a comeback after regaining his own match fitness in a successful spell at Deepdale in the Championship.

Lillywhites boss Phil Brown had been hoping to keep the Jamaican winger until the end of the season, but with question marks still hanging over the fitness of Mark Davies, the 32-year-old has been brought back into the fold.

Davies came through a full training session yesterday and could yet make his own timely run for a semi-final starting berth.

The 23-year-old suffered a setback in his return from an ankle injury early last week and was withdrawn from contention for the game at St Andrews because of concerns over the Blues' pitch.

Coyle remains hopeful he will figure in some way in the Whites' last game before they head to the capital.

“We’re hoping he’ll be involved but time will tell,” he said. “He has progressed but wasn’t fit enough to start against Birmingham, now we’ll see if he’s fit enough to start against West Ham.”

Coyle added that he had been pleased with youngster Marcos Alonso, who had deputised for Paukl Robinson – himself on nine yellow cards – against Birmingham.

“Marcos has shown he’s more than capable of coming in for Robbo on the number of times he’s done it this season,” he said. “I’ve got no problem with that.

“He’s deserved a chance and I think Robbo will probably enjoy the freshness of coming back in, given how much he’s played. That’s what squads are for.”

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