PNE's final dress rehearsal

Preston's squad have one last chance to catch Alex Neil's eye ahead of the big kick-off when they face Fleetwood tonight.

Friday, 28th July 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:59 pm
Sean Maguire made a goalscoring debut against Burnley in midweek

The Highbury Stadium clash (7.30pm) is PNE’s final friendly before the curtain goes up on the new campaign against Sheffield Wednesday a week tomorrow.

Whether Neil shows his hand and fields the side which will play Wednesday or he keeps his cards close to his chest, remains to be seen.

But there will be the chance for the players to get more game-time in the tank ahead of the season.

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Darnell Fisher is set to make his debut after making the move from Rotherham in midweek.

The ex-Celtic defender will give another option at right-back, a role which has been filled by Marnick Vermijl and Liam Grimshaw during 
pre-season in the absence of the injured Calum Woods.

After coming off the bench to score against Burnley on Tuesday night, Sean Maguire could get a start.

The Irish striker caused a big buzz at Deepdale with his goal and further time on the pitch tonight will help him get used to his new team-mates.

Likewise, Kevin O’Connor will get another run at some stage of the game.

Another newcomer, Josh Harrop, will see more action after featuring in the last two games – as a substitute against Newcastle and the first half of the Burnley match.

The Lilywhites do have a few injuries to contend with for the Cod Army clash.

Jordan Hugill, Stevie May, Declan Rudd, Paul Gallagher, Ben Davies and Woods have all been nursing strains and knocks.

The injuries to Hugill and Davies are the most recent, both sustained in last week’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle.

Neil said: “Ben felt his groin in the Newcastle game but it is nothing serious.

“It’s the same with Jordan, a little niggle.

“Against Burnley I didn’t see the point in having them sat on the bench and playing them for the last 30 minutes.

“They had both started against Newcastle, so rather than risk them, I kept them fresh in the hope they might be available for Fleetwood.”

Chris Maxwell got a knock on the hip against Burnley and gave way to Mat Hudson for the closing 15 minutes.

He will be hoping to be fit and so will Neil, with Rudd still recovering from injury.

Said Neil: “It’s a thigh strain with Declan and the thing which is difficult for a keeper, 
especially with it being his kicking leg, is that he needs to be able to kick the ball 70 and 80 yards at some stage.

“He has got to be a full tilt before we can put him back in.

“If he strikes the ball some distance and isn’t quite ready, he is going to cause some more damage.”