The Lilywhites return to Deepdale after over three weeks on the road, as they welcome fifth-placed Reading to PR1 in the latest round of Championship fixtures.
The two sides met back at the beginning of November, when PNE picked up a 3-0 victory at the Madejski Stadium, but the game was far tighter than the scoreline suggests, with Declan Rudd making a fine save to keep things level before goals from Scott Sinclair, Emil Riis’ first for the club and Brad Potts wrapped up the points.
The Royals have had an excellent start to 2021 in the league, winning three and drawing one of their last four games, with a 3-0 victory over Coventry City to bring into Sunday’s game.
It is live on Sky Sports, with a 12.30pm kick-off, as the team play their third game in a week, ahead of a run of Saturday-to-Saturday games, allowing some extra work on the training pitches at Euxton.
Competition: EFL Sky Bet Championship (26/46)
Date: Sunday 24th January, kick-off 12.30pm
Kit: 2020/21 home kit – click here to buy it now!
Head To Head: PNE wins – 25; Draws – 12; Reading - 25
Alex Neil will give a late check on Sean Maguire, who missed the midweek win at St Andrews. Billy Bodin is also back in training, but some weeks off being fully fit.
Long-term casualties Patrick Bauer (Achilles), Declan Rudd (knee) and Louis Moult (ACL) are the only other absentees.
Royals boss Veljko Paunovic looks set to be without Michael Olise. He picked up a shoulder injury against Coventry City on Tuesday and must gets scans and see a specialist to assess the seriousness of the knock.
Full back Andy Yiadom fully recovered and in the final stages of his return to match fitness, but needs an U23 game to get fully fit; Yakou Meite is also getting back close to fitness.
Liam Moore is out until next month; Felipe Araruna is a couple of weeks away, whilst Romanian striker George Puscas had a hernia operation last week and will be out for a couple of weeks.
For our second Sky game in a row, the match official will be Geoff Eltringham, who refereed our 1-0 home win over Bristol City back in December.
His last PNE game before that was the game where Scott Sinclair scored his first goal for the club, versus the winger’s former employers Swansea City on 1st February.
Experienced County Durham referee Geoff, as well as the Swans draw, last season officiated the 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town back in November 2019, as well as our draw with Nottingham Forest at the end of August.
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 15 games this season, with 48 cautions and four red cards issued, and this will also be his second Royals game of the season, having taken charge of their 2-1 home defeat to Norwich just a couple of days before his last trip to PR1.
For the game, the referee will be assisted by Matthew McGrath and Richard Wild, whilst experienced Championship official Darren Bond will act as the fourth official – as he did when Geoff was the referee for the Bristol game five weeks ago.
North End fans can watch Sunday’s game live on Sky Sports, which means the game is not available on iFollow except for season ticket holders.
However, an audio pass is available, with Jonathan Breeze and former PNE skipper Paul McKenna on commentary duties, with replays, graphics and coverage from Deepdale from approximately 12 noon on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Neil Says Win Will Help New Men: Preston North End manager Alex Neil says that the midweek victory over Birmingham City will be important to help the new signings to settle in quickly. Click here for the full interview.
A Match To Remember: Tom Barkhuizen scored twice to help North End keep alive their Championship Play-Off hopes by beating Reading in our game we look back to from 2017. Click here for the details of the game we have covered.
Scott Sinclair Looking To Bring Away Goals To Deepdale: Preston North End top scorer Scott Sinclair added to his season’s total with the match-winning goal in Wednesday’s trip to Birmingham City. Click here for Scott’s thoughts.
The One And Only Issue 13: This weekend’s matchday programme sees Josh Earl as the cover star, and he is openly honest about his football career so far and admits he is desperate to make a bigger impression at PNE. Click here for more information.