PNE’s season all mapped out

Paul McKenna (second from right) was on target at Ipswich the last time PNE won on the opening day of the season in 2008
Paul McKenna (second from right) was on target at Ipswich the last time PNE won on the opening day of the season in 2008
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Fixture release day is a bit like Christmas Day – a lot of build-up with the excitement over in a couple of hours.

When the fixture list lands, you cast your eye over the opening-day game, who you play at Christmas and Easter and who your side finishes against.

If you are a North End fan you add a few more things to the list – contenders for Gentry Day, the daftest trip in midweek and whether Nottingham Forest away will be on a Saturday.

Gentry Day I will leave to others, while Bristol City away on a Tuesday night in November is the one which leaps out as testing the faith and sleep pattern of any North End supporter.

Amazingly, the visit to the City Ground is down for a Saturday – however all that could change.

Seven of Preston’s last eight league visits to Forest have been on a Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Even the single Saturday date in that sequence had a 5.30pm kick-off and not the traditional 3pm.

When North End came out of the hat with Forest in the FA Cup three years ago, it got a Friday night slot as Notts County were down to be at home the next day.

So it was with an element of surprise that the 2017/18 visit to Forest is scheduled for a Saturday.

But wait, January 27 falls in 
FA Cup fourth round weekend!

So if PNE or Forest safely negotiate the third round, the league clash will have to move to a spare midweek space.

There is something about midweek dates and the East Midlands from Preston’s point of view.

Derby away is again on a Tuesday evening – the fifth time in the last six visits that has happened.

Picking out a few things from PNE’s fixtures, much has been made of the tricky start they face.

It does look rather tough when you consider the stature of the first five opponents and where they were last season.

So PNE certainly have to be more switched-on than they were 12 months ago.

When they host Sheffield Wednesday on August 5, the Lilywhites will be chasing their first opening-day victory for nine years.

They won 2-1 at Ipswich in 2008 and since then it has been five draws and three defeats.

There are a couple of spells of the campaign when games at Deepdale are at a premium.

After hosting Sunderland on September 30, North End do not play at home again until October 28 when Brentford visit.

An international break and back-to-back away games at Fulham and Wolves is the cause of that.

Similarly, after playing Aston Villa on October 31, they have only four home games in November and December.

The Christmas games are okay, save for the trip to Cardiff City on December 30 – at least it is a Saturday this season.