Preston’s worst fears over the knee injury suffered by Calum Woods materialised with the news that he will miss all of the forthcoming season.
The result of the defender going in for a full-blooded challenge with Oldham’s Jamie Reckford was damage to the cruciate and medial ligaments in his right knee.
His length of absence has been estimated at more than nine months, effectively ending his campaign before it has even begun.
North End first-team coach Steve Thompson admitted that the club had been bracing themselves for the bad news.
Thompson told the Evening Post: “As soon as we saw it happen, we feared the worse.
“Calum stayed down and was hitting the floor with his hand, so we knew it could be serious.
“Ideally, you wanted him to have pulled out of the tackle.
“I’m not saying it was a bad tackle but they came together at great speed.
“It is a real blow to lose Calum because he grew into that position last season and did really well for us.
“He will get the best possible care with us. Matt Jackson is an excellent physio who will guide his recovery.
“Calum will see a specialist and it will be decided from there what happens – whether he needs surgery or not.
“As a club, we’ll have a look at how we plan to replace him while he is out.”
Woods was injured in the 15th minute of Tuesday night’s win at Oldham.
He contested a 50/50 ball with Reckford close to the halfway line, both players going in fully committed.
It was Woods’ right knee which opened up and took the impact, tearing two of the ligaments.
North End’s medical staff are well versed in dealing with long-term injuries.
Stevie May is currently rehabilitating after damaging three ligaments in his knee against Fulham last November.
Jermaine Beckford missed much of last season because of knee cartilage damage, while a fractured shin kept winger Chris Humphrey sidelined.
It looks a certainty that PNE will turn to the transfer market following the loss of Woods.
Simon Grayson hinted this week that right-back was a position they needed cover in, even if Woods was fit.
Marnick Vermijl, on loan at Deepdale last season, springs to mind immediately.
North End have had contact with Sheffield Wednesday over the summer regarding Vermijl.
Woods was able to operate in the centre of defence too, playing a number of games last season on the right-hand side of a three-man defence.
In the short term, PNE have different options to replace Woods for tomorrow’s friendly with Stoke at Deepdale (3pm).
Humphrey came off the bench to play at right-back after Woods’ departure from the Oldham game.
Later on, he moved up to the wing with youngster Clive Smith filling the full-back role.
Joe Garner, Paul Gallagher, Beckford, Paul Huntington and Anders Lindegaard will be among the starters against Stoke.
They were second-half subs in midweek and will look to up their game-time in the only home friendly of the summer.