Preston are back in action this weekend as they host Huddersfield Town at Deepdale on Saturday afternoon.
North End went top of the Championship table last Sunday, beating Charlton Athletic 1-0 away from home. Paul Gallagher’s penalty sent Preston top, but it didn’t last long as West Bromwich Albion reclaimed first place just over 24 hours later.
Alex Neil now has a chance to claim another three points, this time against a resurgent Huddersfield side. The Terriers have gone seven games unbeaten under new boss Danny Cowley, who won the Championship Manager of the Month award today.
Cowley’s side will pose a tough test for North End, and Neil will have some tough decisions to make as he names his best side to continue the unbeaten home league run.
Goalkeeper and back four
Declan Rudd wasn’t tested much at Charlton last week, and is likely to keep his place in goal barring any late issues. The defence in front of Rudd should be the same as the trip to London; Darnell Fisher, Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies and Joe Rafferty, from right to left.
Against a Cowley side, there may be a temptation to play Andrew Hughes at left back, using his additional height. Neil showed at Birmingham in September that he’s willing to make that change, but it’s hard to see him dropping in-form Rafferty now.
Middle of the park
This is where Preston have the most issues. Ben Pearson misses the game through suspension, having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last week. Ryan Ledson doesn’t make many starts, but he was given the nod when Pearson missed out against Brenford in September, so could be in line to play again.
Daniel Johnson faces a late push to play after a first half injury at Charlton, but it seems likely that he’ll miss out. With Josh Harrop out too, Alan Browne may play as the number 10, leaving room for Paul Gallagher to start in a deep role alongside Ledson. Tom Bayliss may be hoping to make a first Championship start, but a spot on the bench seems more likely.
After impressing in the last two games, Jayden Stockley is almost certain to keep his place up top. His aerial presence in recent games has been impressive, and will give North End a platform to build from in the final third.
Seani Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen look set to keep their spots out wide, even with Billy Bodin back fit again. The Welshman was an unused substitute last week, so it’s hard to see change here.
On the bench
In this situation, the best guess at the bench would be Connor Ripley, Jordan Storey, Andrew Hughes, Tom Bayliss, Billy Bodin, David Nugent and Brad Potts, though the latter two are facing late fitness tests. Hopefully Johnson will be fit for the bench, but Josh Ginnelly and Andre Green offer other options.