Preston return to action against Blackburn Rovers tonight, and Alex Neil faces a reshuffle in full back areas.

North End have seen Darnell Fisher pick up an FA charge for violent conduct against Sheffield Wednesday, meaning he will now miss three games.

That will start tonight, meaning Joe Rafferty – who played at left back against Wednesday – will likely shift over to play at right back.

So who will play at left back? Andrew Hughes is still out injured right now, so this could end up being Josh Earl’s time to shine.


Preston North End v Mansfield Town - Carabao Cup First Round
Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town, but is now back at Deepdale and chasing first-team football.

He showed real promise in pre-season, looking more like the player that made a huge impact under Neil in the 2017-18 season before seemingly losing some confidence.

Earl was forced to self-isolate in September, and also picked up an injury, which means he hasn’t played a single league game this season.

His only game was against Mansfield in August, but Fisher’s suspension and Hughes’ injury may mean he is thrown in against Blackburn tonight.

Everton v Preston North End - Pre-Season Friendly
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Earl is big and athletic, and offers a naturally left-footed option in that position. On a number of occasions – even just on Saturday – we saw Rafferty have to cut back onto this right foot in the final third, which slowed down and limited attacks.

Earl can offer more natural width, and this could now be his chance to really nail down that left back spot having recently signed a new contract.

It’s not long since Earl was being linked with Everton and Liverpool. His development has stalled a little, but after being on the bench in recent weeks, it may now be time for him to step up tonight and prove his quality again.

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