Battle for final place in Preston North End’s 25-man squad for Championship games

Preston North End are back to having a vacancy to fill in their senior squad.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 8:00 am

It is understood that PNE have had permission from the EFL to remove the injured Connor Wickham from the squad which is registered for Championship matches.

However, that permission was granted on the condition that a replacement has to be a player already on the payroll and not a free agent signing.

North End have four senior players on the books who are not in the 25-man squad.

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Joe Rafferty is one of the players hoping for the call to PNE's 25-man squad

They are Joe Rafferty, Jamie Thomas, Josh Harrop and keeper Connor Ripley.

Rafferty and Thomas both played for the reserves in the Central League Cup last week.

Harrop did not feature and is believed to be injured, while there would be no point adding a fourth keeper in Ripley to the squad.

Championship clubs can register a maximum of 25 players aged over 21 or who are loan, in their squads.

There is no limit on the number of players below the age of 21 who can be used in league matches.

After the close of the transfer window, North End registered 23 players and left two slots open which could be filled at any point.

Wickham signing as a free agent in mid-September took the numbers up to 24.

Ahead of the Birmingham game a fortnight ago, Paul Huntington was added to the squad to fill it to the maximum.

Wickham suffered a major hamstring injury just a few minutes into his full debut against Cheltenham Town in the Carabao Cup.

A few days before, he had come off the bench in the league clash with West Bromwich Albion.

The striker’s injury was deemed severe enough for PNE to be able to apply to the EFL to take him out of the squad.

Wickham had surgery to repair the injury, with it believed to be similar in nature to the type of damage suffered by Callum Robinson and Greg Cunningham a few years ago.

PNE head coach Frankie McAvoy will have to weigh up how best to fill the 25th place in the squad.

Does he go for defensive cover in Rafferty or opt for Thomas who plays as an attacking midfielder?

It is likely that both players will feature in the Lancashire FA Senior Cup tie against Rochdale tomorrow.

The game has been moved to Euxton (2pm), with it initially being Dale’s home match.

Admission to the game is free and North End will again be running a shuttle bus from Preston and Leyland.

In the Lancashire Cup, teams must field at least six players with a professional contract.