It's a crucial stage of the season for Preston North End which makes it all the better that their key midfielder is starting to peak.

Ben Pearson is indispensable to Alex Neil, who has hailed his defensive midfielder as the best in the league - North End's No.6 is the glue in the team and it is absolutely paramount he stays fit.

The last two games, a 3-0 win at Barnsley and a 1-1 draw at home to Swansea, he has been untouchable.

Wherever he went the ball went, whenever the opposition attacked he was there, however they tried to go past him they couldn't.

Pearson is just a class act and forget one of the best number sixes in the league, he's one of the best players in the league.

What manager in their right mind wouldn't want him in their team?

His only real criticism, and rightly so, has been his discipline which hasn't been good enough when you look at the quite frankly ridiculous figures against his name.

But this season, without jinxing anything, he seems to have solved that issue and has just seven yellows in 28 games which is of course one every four games.

Last season he averaged one every 192 minutes - he finished the last campaign with 14 yellows and three reds, the season before 15 yellows and one red.

So at last, Alex Neil's cracked it with Pearo and while he's had to reign it in a bit, the value of having your best player on the field as much as possible cannot be understimated.

Preston North End manager Alex Neil gives instructions to Ben Pearson

He's quite brilliant at what he does and having him at his best for the remaining 16 games could be the difference between a top six finish and not.

One player in Pearson's position, who's rated equally high, is Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips.

Many regard him as the best in the division but in fact it's pointless arguing over who the best is, when Phillips and Pearson are both top, top players who could play in the Premier League without a doubt.

But how do their per-game stats from this season compare?

Defending

Tackles: 2 - 2.9

Interceptions: 1.4 - 1.3

Clearances: 1.1 - 1.3

Dribbled past per game: 0.9 - 1.6

Fouls: 1.2 - 1.5

Crosses blocked: 0.3 - 0.2

Passing

Pass success %: 83 - 81

Key passes: 0.8 - 2

Average passes: 50.4 - 55.9

Blocked passes: 0.7 - 0.8

Accurate short passes: 38 - 40.3

Inaccurate passes (short/long): 5/3.6 - 6/4.4

Attacking

Fouled: 1.6 - 1.2

Dispossessed: 0.3 - 0.7

Total dribbles: 0.8 - 0.6

Unsuccessful touches: 0.6 - 1.1

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.Com

So the stats show Pearson is right up there, as well as his performances - it's no surprise his manager and team mates have such high expectations of him.

After the Swansea draw PNE fans raved over their No.6's display, but Alex Neil just said he improved in the second half while Alan Browne's reaction highlighted how highly the dressing room regards him.

Browne said: "He's class and everyone knows what he's capable of.

"In terms of quality he's got everything, it's just about showing it consistently - he kind of plays in one gear at times, he's a lot better than he gives himself credit for.

"I think he should be dominating games on his own and I tell him that every game.

"He's a fantastic player and we're lucky to have him."