Preston boss Alex Neil will be tasked with piecing together a new central midfield core after the international break to cover the three-match ban which awaits Ben Pearson.
Firebrand Pearson was shown a red card after the final whistle in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Bolton for aiming a headbutt at the Trotters’ Joe Williams.
The 23-year-old will miss the games against Reading, Leeds and Sheffield United, and is not available until the League Cup clash with Middlesbrough.
With Ryan Ledson having two more games of a ban to serve, Neil is without his two midfield enforcers.
The PNE boss intends dealing with the Pearson incident fully when the squad report back for training tomorrow.
He did not see it happening live, having headed off to the tunnel at full-time, but will study footage of it.
Neil said: “If it is the case that Ben has done something to merit the red card, then he has let himself down and his team-mates down.
“However, I’m not going to castigate him at the moment.
“When I do have a look, if he is innocent then naturally we will appeal and back him.
“But if he is found to be guilty and has acted untoward, we will deal with it.”
Pearson had got through the game without a booking and handled himself well.
But the match had got a bit niggly in stoppage time, the action twice stopped because of head injuries to two Bolton players.
At the final whistle there was a big coming together of players from both sides, from which Pearson was led away by team-mates and staff.
As he was walking away, referee Andy Davies showed him the red card and then went and booked Williams.
It put the tin lid on a game which had started so well for North End, early goals from Callum Robinson and Alan Browne putting them firmly in control.
But two goals in as many minutes saw Bolton restore parity, the first of those down to a howler from Declan Rudd, who let a shot from Sammy Ameobi through his legs.
“We needed to go for the game and I was aggressive in my line-up,” said Neil.
“I made a lot of changes from Leeds because it was a different proposition.
“At Leeds I felt we needed a focal point to play off and to hit them on the flanks.
“Against Bolton, we needed guys who could drop off and draw their centre-backs out.
“The simple fact is that you get judged on results and at 2-0, everyone would have been thinking, ‘Good decision’.
“But then we conceded the two goals – the first one from our point of view was really disappointing.
“We needed to re-group but didn’t do it quickly enough.”