We’re already at 20 games for the season and we face our ninth of those in the last 28 days when the Lilywhites entertain Bristol City in front of the Sky Sports cameras at 8pm on Friday night.
With Lancashire remaining in Tier 3, the game will remain behind closed doors, although the Robins will return home to a Tier 2 city, after Bristol was downgraded in Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement on Thursday morning.
Both sides are very familiar to one another, having faced each other many times in recent years, the last match at Deepdale being an entertaining 3-3 draw in the Autumn of last season.
This year Dean Holden brings his side to Deepdale, having taken the reins on a permanent basis last summer and he will be looking to earn their first win in PR1 since February 2011.
Competition: EFL Sky Bet Championship (20/46)
Date: Friday 18th December, kick-off 8pm
Kit: 2020/21 home kit – click here to buy it now!
Head To Head: PNE wins – 30; Draws – 30; Bristol City - 26
Manager Alex Neil was without Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts for Tuesday’s trip to Barnsley; adding to the list of longer-term players who are already absent.
That list has not eased any, with Ben Pearson (ankle), Patrick Bauer (Achilles), Louis Moult (ACL) and Billy Bodin (knee) all still out of the reckoning.
Dean Holden also has issues. Famara Diédhiou saw red, after collecting two booking having come on as a substitute against Millwall in midweek and he will miss out, whilst Tomas Kalas faces a late fitness test after going off in the same game with a dead leg.
Chris Brunt (calf) and Jamie Paterson (hip) both also missed the game with niggles and they too will need to be assessed before the Robins boss names his 20.
Long term, they are without Jay Dasilva (tibia), Alfie Mawson (knee), Nathan Baker and Steven Sessegnon (both hamstring) and forward Andi Weimann (ACL).
The match official for Friday’s live game at Deepdale has not taken charge of the Lilywhites since the game where Scott Sinclair scored his first goal for the club, versus Swansea City on 1st February.
Experienced County Durham referee Geoff Eltringham will be the referee. As well as the Swans draw, last season he officiated the 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town back in November, as well as our draw with Nottingham Forest at the end of August 2019.
The last time we saw the north east official here in Preston before that, was for the superb home win over Norwich City back in February 2019, before which he also refereed our final game of 2018, when we took a point from a fine performance against Aston Villa.
Prior to that he was referee when the Lilywhites travelled to Ashton Gate and defeated Lee Johnson’s Bristol City in October 2018 and also North End’s trip to Elland Road back in September – making it four games in the 2018/19 campaign, having also officiated five games for Alex Neil’s side in the 2017/18 season!
In that season, having taken charge our early season game at Derby County, Geoff also took charge of the Boxing Day trip to Barnsley, our January win at Nottingham Forest and March’s victory over Bristol City at Deepdale and finally our goalless draw with Norwich City in mid-April.
He also refereed one North End game in 2016/17, the home clash with our Barnsley, having also done one the previous season, the 1-0 home win over Reading.
The year prior to that he took charge of three PNE games, including the 2-0 home win over Peterborough United in March. Back in the 2013/14 campaign he also took charge of North End twice, both of those at Deepdale - the 1-1 draw with Tranmere Rovers back in November 2013 and then the goalless draw with Sheffield United in March.
The County Durham official is an experienced referee who had taken charge of North End a number of other times in the past including the very first game after the departure of Graham Westley, when John Dreyer took the team against an in-form Bournemouth side and ran out 2-0 winners.
He also looked after a thriller back in 2010, when North End overcame Crystal Palace 4-3 at Deepdale.
Geoff has so far taken charge of 12 games this season, with 41 cautions and three red cards issued, and this will also be his first Robins game of the season. For the game, the referee will be assisted by Steven Meredith and Mark Jones, whilst experienced Championship official Darren Bond will act as the fourth official.
Overseas North End fans in certain territories will be able watch Friday’s game live on iFollow PNE, with purchases of a match pass available now depending on your region.
Jonathan Breeze and former North End skipper Paul McKenna are on commentary duties, with replays, graphics and coverage from the Deepdale from approximately 7.30pm on Friday evening.
Alex Neil Previews Bristol City Clash: Preston North End welcome Dean Holden’s Bristol City and the Sky Sports cameras for their final EFL Championship game before Christmas on Friday night. Click here for the full interview.
A Match To Remember: Back in April 2017 the Lilywhites put on a five-star performance to pick up three points against this Friday's visitors Bristol City. Click here for the details of the game we have covered.
Ben Davies Says Fatherhood Has Been Welcome Distraction: North End head into their ninth game in 28 days when they face Bristol City in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Friday night and, if selected, Ben Davies will have played the last seven in 21 days. Click here for Ben’s thoughts.
The One And Only Issue Ten: In Friday’s edition of the club’s official matchday programme, goalkeeper Declan Rudd is the main interviewee. Click here for more information.
A Foot In Both Camps: This Friday night, one of many eager viewers of the live TV coverage will be a man who represented both clubs in recent years. Click here for the interview.