North End travel to Bramall Lane on Saturday looking to gain their first win against the Blades in South Yorkshire in 35 years this weekend, as they look to end the 2012/13 season on a high.
The last win came in 1-0 victory with Alex Bruce the scorer, but since then it has been a tale of woe at 'The Lane' with North End throwing away a number of winning positions in the intervening three and a half decades.
This weekend the Lilywhites face a side already guaranteed their position in the Play-Offs for the second consecutive season, looking to join their City rivals back in the Championship.
The Club caused a stir when they sacked manager Danny Wilson with only a handful of games to go and placed, popular former Blades defender Chris Morgan in charge until the end of the season, assisted by former PNE coach David Unsworth and former PNE favourite Richard Cresswell.
They finished their away programme with a 1-0 defeat at Crewe in midweek, Morgan choosing to make some significant changes to his side in order to try a few things out ahead of the Play-Off campaign. That meant Matt Hill was left out at the Alexandra Stadium, but North End fans will hope to see the former PNE player of the year in action at the weekend.
Speaking after the loss against The Alex in midweek, Morgan said: "I wanted to look at a different setup away from home with the Play-Offs in mind. I also need to rest a few.
"We changed things up a little bit tonight - we had a look at some different players.
"The 11 we've had on the pitch at the start is well strong enough to win the game - we've tested the goalkeeper, we've had set-plays, and they have one chance and they win the game.
"Anyone that's seen us play this year will say that has probably been our Achilles heel. When we're on top and we're created chances we're not ruthless in front of goal."
Temporary Sheffield United boss Morgan freshened up their team for the game at Crewe on Tuesday evening.
The former centre half made five changes with Darryl Westlake, Harry Maguire, former PNE loan man Jonathan Forte, Barry Robson and Callum McFadzean, who made his full league debut, all starting.
This meant Flynn and Murphy dropped to the bench and there was no place for McMahon, Kitson and Matt Hill.
A further tinkering of matters could be made by the caretaker this weekend. With those end of season lottery fixtures to come he could look to rest key members of his squad, meaning North End could be kept waiting to know who they will be up against.
The early formation for this changed side saw former Celtic man Robson supporting Chris Porter from a central area, with Forte on the right and McFadzean on the left. At the back Higginbotham moved out to left back to accommodate Maguire at centre half.
Meanwhile, North End boss Simon Grayson admitted that he may well postpone Keith Keane's hernia operation after Paul Connolly suffered possible hamstring damage at Crawley on Tuesday night.
He will also give late fitness tests to forwards Joe Garner (knee) and Stuart Beavon (shoulder), who both missed the trip to Sussex.
The season's joint top appearance maker Nicky Wroe, Lee Holmes and Keane, who all impacted the game as second half substitutes in the midweek will come into consideration for final starts of the season.
Last Sheffield United line-up (Versus Crewe Alexandra, 23/04/2013): Long, Westlake, Higginbotham (Murphy, 45), Maguire, Doyle, Porter, McDonald, Collins, Forte (Ironside, 65), Robson (Chapell, 70), McFadzean. Subs not used: Flynn, Whitehouse, Barry, Coyne.
One To Watch
An extremely popular figure at Deepdale and winner of the 200y player of the year award, Matt Hill should line-up against the Lilywhites again this weekend.
Matt joined the Blades on a permanent basis in the summer of 2012 after his release from Blackpool. He’d already had a successful loan spell with United in the 2011/12 campaign, making 15 appearance, including the Play-Off final at Wembley, which he scored from the penalty spot in the shoot-out.
The versatile and experienced defender began his career at Bristol City, chalking up over 200 appearances, many under the leadership of former Blades boss Danny Wilson, before spells at Deepdale, Wolves, QPR and Barnsley ahead of moving to Blackpool in the summer of 2011.
Has played a significant number of games for the Bramall Lane club at centre back, rather than the position North End fans often saw him in at left back.
Chris Morgan took temporary charge of the Blades in April 2013 after Danny Wilson and Frank Barlow left the club.
A respected player at Bramall Lane, a skipper who led the club into the Premiership, Chris accepted a role as coach as he attempted to battle back from a serious knee injury, which he sustained in October 2010.
Before taking temporary charge, his primary roles were first team coach and U21s manager.
The man with the whistle this weekend is Staffordshire official Steve Rushton.
Taking charge of his 29th game of the season; so far he has issued 80 yellow cards and sent off eight people – including two Sheffield United players in one game at Scunthorpe earlier on this season.
This will be the fifth rime he has taken charge of the Blades and PNE in his time as a Football League match official, but his first at Bramall Lane.
Interestingly he took charge of PNE’s Boxing Day thriller with Carlisle United in 2011, when David Unsworth – who will be in the United dugout on Saturday – was in joint temporary charge at Deepdale alongside Graham Alexander.
How To Get There
The best route is often, M61, M60, M67, Woodhead pass, then getting back on the M1 and following these directions: Leave the M1 at Junction 36 and follow the A61 into Sheffield. Follow the A61 into Sheffield passing Hillsborough Stadium on your right. Continue along the A61, which becomes the ring road around the western side of the city centre. You will eventually reach a roundabout at the junction with the A621. At the roundabout turn right onto the A621 Bramall Lane. The ground is a short way down on the left.
SAT NAV S2 4SU
Away fans are housed in the lower tier of the recently renamed Jessica Ennis Stand (aka the Bramall Lane Stand) at one end of the ground, where around 3,000 supporters can be accommodated. Bramall Lane is a great place to watch football as the stands are located close to the pitch, the views are generally good, as well as the atmosphere too. Any tickets still available for the away end can be purchased from two dedicated away ticket windows just up from the turnstile entrances. On the concourses there are television screens showing the game going on inside as well as a betting outlet. The club have automatic turnstiles, meaning that you have to insert your ticket into a bar code reader to gain admittance.
The Lilywhites are set to be backed by a four figure following for the eighth time on the road this season at Sheffield United on Saturday. Pre-sales for the all ticket fixture are already well in excess of 700 with tickets on sale until Saturday morning for the trip across the Pennines, with many more expected before the weekend.
North End fans are allocated seats in the Jessica Ennis Stand, with prices as follows: Adults £19.50, seniors (over 65), full-time students (with NUS) and youths (16 to 21) £15 and U16s £9.50. Disabled pay £15 with helpers free.
PNE Travel depart Deepdale/Leyland at 11.45am adults £16, concessions £14.
The ticket and retail store is open 6pm on Friday and again from 9am on Saturday and there will be no sales on the day at Bramall Lane. If you can’t get down in person you can also call 0844 856 1966 during the store opening hours.
Can’t Get To The Game?
Don’t worry; Anthony Wareing will be on the mic from 2.30pm at Bramall Lane, bringing you full, live and uninterrupted match commentary.
You can also follow all the action on Twitter – just follow us (@pnefc), to be a part of what should be another fantastic day out for the North End faithful.
Back The Boys
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