Striker signing will be top priority for Preston North End boss Alex Neil

North End boss Alex NeilNorth End boss Alex Neil
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Preston North End’s focus during the January transfer window will be on trying to bolster their firepower.

They want to land a striker over the next few weeks to give the goals tally a boost.

While the Lilywhites are joint highest scorers at home in the Championship with 29 goals, on the road they have netted the fewest – just seven.

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Over the last six weeks the flow of goals has slowed, with five scored in the nine games since the resumption of action after the last international break.

North End – who start 2020 against Middlesbrough at Deepdale today (3pm) – know they will be shopping in a crowded market, with many teams having strikers at the top of their wanted lists.

In the current squad they have Jayden Stockley, David Nugent, Tom Barkhuizen and Sean Maguire to play up front. North End boss Alex Neil has largely preferred to use Maguire wide but he did start him as the main striker in Sunday’s home defeat to Reading.

Shortly after the summer window closed, PNE lost Louis Moult for the rest of the season to a torn cruciate ligament.

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So they were a striker down anyway, hence a desire to strengthen that position.

The transfer window opened for business this morning and closes at 11pm on Friday, January 31.

During the window, it is expected that Andre Green’s loan from Aston Villa will be cut short by PNE.

The winger is on a season’s loan at Deepdale from Villa but he has had only limited game time.

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With Villa’s agreement with North End being for a full season’s loan, the onus is on PNE to help Green find another club to join if they want to cut the loan short.

The 21-year-old is out of contract at Villa in the summer and is unlikely to go back into their squad.

Elsewhere on the loan front, North End look set to allow Josh Earl to stay on loan at Bolton for the remainder of the season.

Earl joined Wanderers in August and could only take him initially for a maximum of six months due to transfer embargo restrictions.

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After recovering from an ankle injury sustained on his Bolton debut, he has got a run of games at centre-half over the last few weeks.

North End think Earl’s development will be helped by an extended run of first-team games rather than being on the bench here.

For this afternoon’s clash with Boro, PNE will hope to welcome back Patrick Bauer.

The German centre-half has been suffering from a bout of flu which forced him to miss the Leeds and Reading games.

PNE manager Neil is set to bring Paul Gallagher back into the midfield.