The wait is over, three months without competitive football comes to an end this Saturday when the Lilywhite entertain Sheffield Wednesday in the Deepdale opener of the 2017/18 EFL Sky Bet Championship.
It will be manager Alex Neil’s first league game in charge of North End and face in the Owls, a side who have been in the division’s Play-Offs for the last two seasons; losing last year to an eventually promoted Huddersfield Town side on penalties in the semi-finals.
Carlos Carvalhal has recruited the experience of George Boyd into his squad over the summer months; the former Burnley left-sided midfielder is expected to make his debut for the South Yorkshiremen in front of a sold out away crowd.
The Owls may not have made too many signings over the summer, but Carlos Carvalhal already had one of the most experienced squads at his disposal. With internationals all over the pitch and with players who have moved for many millions of pounds during their careers he has the unenviable task of selecting just 11 players to start the league opener against PNE.
Ross Wallace, Adam Reach and David Jones will return to familiar surroundings and will all be expected to be involved against the previous club. The quality of Barry Bannan is likely to be the fulcrum which the side is based around in the midfield, whilst in attack the Owls’ boss has the luxury of choosing from the likes of Fletcher, Hooper, Forestieri, Rhodes, Joao, Nuhui and more.
The addition of Boyd will provide balance down the left hand side, whilst Wallace, a natural left footer could start on the right, with his trickery and ability to deliver the ball into dangerous areas being a threat.
PNE Team News
For North End, summer additions Declan Rudd, Josh Harrop, Sean Maguire, Kevin O’Connor and Darnell Fisher are all available, the former having returned to training last weekend after picking up a thigh injury in the first minute of pre-season action at Bamber Bridge back at the beginning of July.
In fact, only club captain Tom Clarke (Achilles injury) will be ruled out of the manager’s plans, with Paul Gallagher, Jordan Hugill and Calum Woods, who all missed the last week of pre-season fixtures, in full training ahead of the visit of the Owls to PR1.
For the opening game of the season, experienced referee Tony Harrington will be the man with the whistle. Last season he took charge of two North End games, the 1-1 draw away at Nottingham Forest and the thrilling 4-2 win over Brentford at Deepdale.
Tony, who is now in his seventh year on the EFL list has also been to PR1 on a number of previous occasions, including the 2014/15 penalty win against Oldham in the JPT and North End’s last two home league games against Notts County, including the 2-0 win over the Magpies at Deepdale in February 2014.
He will be joined by assistants Billy Smallwood and Geoff Russell, whilst Scott Oldham will be the fourth official.
Last Five Clashes At Deepdale
PNE 1 (Cunningham) Sheffield Wednesday 1 (Reach), 31st December 2016
PNE 1 (Garner) Sheffield Wednesday 0, 20th February 2016
PNE 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2 (Batth, Marshall), 31st December 2011
PNE 2 (Mellor, Coutts) Sheffield Wednesday 2 (Miller, Tudgay), 16th March 2010
PNE 1 (Parkin) Sheffield Wednesday 1 (Jeffers), 10th March 2009
- This is our 119th season in the EFL since the first season in 1888/89 – why 119th and not 129th? The war years when there was no official Football Leagues run!
- It is our 45th in the second tier (38% of our league career). We have spent 46 seasons in the top tier (39%), 23 at the third level (19%) and five at the bottom of the league (4%).
- This is the 64th time we have started the season with a home game and we have recorded 21 wins, 20 draws and 22 defeats. We have scored 104 goals in those opening home games and conceded 87
- Our biggest opening day win was in 1889/90, when we overcame Stoke (no City in their title at that time) by 10-0. This remains our record league win. We have started the season by scoring five goals on three separate occasions, including the very first league season when we overcame Burnley by 5-2. Our biggest defeat in an opening day home fixture was 1-4 to Tottenham in 1956. We have also lost three times by 2-4, most recently to Colchester in 2011.
- This is only the second time we have played a league game on 5th August – the second earliest we have ever started an EFL season – the other also, bizarrely, being against Sheffield Wednesday in 2006, when Sean St. Ledger, Liam Chilvers and Danny Pugh made their debuts.
- The only other competitive game on this date was the 1-0 home victory over Blackpool in the League Cup in 2013, when Tom Clarke scored an 87th minute winner.
This is the first fixture of the new iFollow broadcasts. If you live outside of the UK and Ireland you can sign up to iFollow Premium and watch the game live!
Every game that is not shown live on Sky or chosen at the ITN main game on Channel 5, will be available for iFollow Premium subscribers who live outside of the UK and Ireland – you can sign up for a season pass or just one game at a time.
For those in the UK who can’t attend the game will still be able to receive audio commentary of every game as well.
As well as this, our matchday centre on PNE.Com will be in full flow, as well as all the usual coverage on our social media channels of Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can interact with us on any of these channels.
Please see our separate articles on match information and ticket details, but for information, normal matchday prices apply with reduced prices for families in the Sir Tom Finney Stand Family Zone.
Fans are advised to collect season tickets as early as possible and to buy in advance where possible to avoid the queues, but also please remember to also use the Invincibles Pavilion ticket office, which can be used to buy tickets for any part of the ground, not just the Pavilion.
The away end is completely sold out and no additional tickets will be available on the day, so visiting supporters should not travel without a ticket as they will not be able to get access to the stadium and any fans found in home areas will be asked to leave the stadium with no refunds.
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