This year’s festive fixtures begin with a trip to Pride Park to face Derby County, currently under the stewardship of caretaker manager, former England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.
The Rams have been unbeaten in their last six games under the striker’s management and will go into the game after an extended break, their pre-Christmas game at Rotherham United postponed due to a Covid-break out in the Millers’ camp.
For North End, eight days since the last game – the win over Bristol City – has provided just as much of a welcome rest and the two sides will be relishing this Boxing Day clash – their second meeting at the home of the Rams this season, after North End’s 2-1 Carabao Cup win back in September.
That was Alex Neil’s men’s first win at Pride Park since Paul Simpson’s side succeeded in the FA Cup in the mid-noughties, whilst they will be looking for their first league win on the Rams’ home turf since their first visit under the management of Craig Brown back in September 2002.
Competition: EFL Sky Bet Championship (21/46)
Date: Saturday 26th December, kick-off 3pm
Venue: Pride Park
Kit: 2020/21 away blue kit – click here to buy it now!
Head To Head: PNE wins – 50; Draws – 27; Derby County - 43
Manager Alex Neil was without Andrew Hughes for the home win over Bristol City and the Welsh left back will continue to be monitored ahead of the trip to Pride Park.
Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts (both calf), Patrick Bauer (Achilles), Ben Pearson (ankle), Louis Moult (ACL), Billy Bodin (knee) are all still sidelined, giving the manager limited options.
Like the Lilywhites, Derby suffered a blow at centre half recently, when experienced defender Curtis Davies’ season was ended early, like PNE’s No.5 Bauer, by a snapped Achilles.
With no game since their home win over Swansea City, some of the niggles around the Pride Park squad, such as Tom Lawrence, should have had time to recover, giving Wayne Rooney options in his forward line, although Jack Marriott has only just returned to the grass.
Darren Bond will take charge of the Lilywhites’ post-Christmas game, his second PNE game of the season, having visited Deepdale for the Millwall game in October.
Last season he refereed our July trip to Huddersfield Town and the Boxing Day draw with Leeds United. Prior to the clash with the Peacocks, he had not taken charge of a North End game since February 2019, when a previous game with Derby County ended goalless at Deepdale.
This will also be the Lancashire referee’s second Rams clash of the season, having officiated their 2-0 home defeat to Reading on the opening day of the season.
This will be his 14th game of this season, having issued 47 yellow cards and one red so far. The referee will be assisted by Nik Barnard and James Wilson, with Robert Massey-Ellis as the fourth official.
Caretaker manager Wayne Rooney said: “Preston are a good team. It will be a difficult game. They’ve played in different ways this season. They can play, or be more direct. We’ve had a bit more time to prepare for this game, so we’ll be ready to try and get three points.
“We’re getting better. Throughout the six games, there has been an improvement in all of our performances. I can see the confidence in their training, walking around Moor Farm, and you can see the belief in them.
“We can’t take our foot off the gas and think we’re out of the situation, because we’re not, we’re right in the thick of it. The players need to continue focussing and working hard to move us up the table.”
North End fans can watch Saturday’s game live on iFollow PNE, with purchases of a £10 match pass available now.
Guy Clarke and former North End midfielder Graeme Atkinson will be on commentary duties, with replays, graphics and coverage from Pride Park from approximately 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Neil Previews Boxing Day Trip: Preston North End manager Alex Neil is expecting a tough test when his side head to Pride Park to face Derby County on Boxing Day. Click here for the full interview.
A Match To Remember: Our last league win at the Baseball Ground was a bittersweet one for the Lilywhites, on the final day of the 1980/81 season. Click here for the details.
Sean Maguire Grateful Of Mental Rest Ahead Of Christmas: Preston North End’s Irish international forward Sean Maguire says that a midweek without a game for the first time since mid-November has been a welcome rest for the players, mentally as much physically. Click here for Seani’s thoughts.