The clock is ticking on goalkeeper Sam Johnstone’s loan spell at Deepdale with Preston North End striving to extend his loan from Manchester United.
Tomorrow’s home game against Brentford is the last of Johnstone’s 28-day loan spell.
Had the visit to Derby have stayed on its scheduled date, that would have fallen within the loan period.
But that clash with the Rams has been moved to February 2 so PNE would have to strike a new agreement for him to play in that one and beyond.
Johnstone arrived for his second stay with North End at the start of the month, filling the void created by Jordan Pickford’s recall to Sunderland.
He has played three games, the wins over Rotherham and Bristol City, together with last week’s draw at Ipswich.
PNE have had plenty of contact with United recently regarding the signings of Ben Pearson and Liam Grimshaw.
But they have yet to get an answer over an extended stay for Johnstone.
“This could be his last game. However we are in dialogue with Manchester United all the time,” said North End boss Simon Grayson.
“We are trying to get some decisions and answers but as you can imagine when you are dealing with big clubs, they have more pressing things.
“Sam has made it clear that he wants to stay and get some game time here.
“He has fitted very easily back into our squad and has done what he has needed to do.
“We will keep talking with United and hopefully get a result from it. Sam is United’s player and we are in their hands.
“We have a lot of dialogue with them over Ben and Liam and as the end of the window gets closer, we will try and do more work with them as regards to Sam.”
Grayson has other options should Johnstone go back and says any replacement would have to be better than whoever is already on the books.
“We have got two very good keepers in Chris Kirkland and Matt Hudson, we feel we can rely on them if we had to,” he said. “We aren’t going to bring in a keeper who we didn’t think is any better than those two.
“But hopefully we can keep Sam and not have to go down another line.
“The way Jordan Pickford has played since going back to Sunderland, and the fact they have sold Costel Pantilimon to Watford, I think rules out the opportunity of bringing him back now.”
North End will assess the fitness of Tom Clarke and Adam Reach ahead of tomorrow’s clash.
Reach missed the Bristol City and Ipswich games with a knee injury, while a groin strain suffered in the warm-up kept Clarke out at Ipswich.
Said Grayson: “They won’t be a million miles away this weekend but if not, I expect them to be back for Derby.
“It will be good to be back playing at Deepdale after three away games and hopefully we can keep our good league form going against Brentford.”