Preston are hopeful that Ben Pearson’s return from injury is not far away.
The midfielder missed all of September’s games, with PNE boss Alex Neil having to mix and match in the centre of the park to cover him.
To their credit, North End remained unbeaten during his time out but having Pearson back will be a big relief.
Neil lamented his absence and that of John Welsh for the 2-2 draw with Sunderland at the end of September.
He felt that not being able to call on a midfielder who was comfortable playing in front of the back four, had hindered them against the Black Cats.
North End have a tough run of matches coming up, starting with away games at Fulham and Wolves.
In an interview with PNE’s website, Pearson said: “I’ve worked hard on my rehab slowly and surely, it’s taken a little longer than it was supposed to but hopefully after the international break I will be back.”
Pearson has played only four games this term, with him sent off against Leeds in August.
So the 22-year-old will be eager to get back playing and bring his combative style to the engine room.
Said Pearson: “This next month is going to be massive for us.
“I think if we can maintain our form and our position then it stands us in good stead for the rest of the season.
“We’ve got two tough away games coming up next with Fulham and Wolves, so that will set a marker of where we are at.”
Welsh, Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne have all played in the centre of midfield in the last month.
In Welsh’s case, he had to be carefully managed after an 11-month absence because of a serious calf muscle injury. Gallagher’s involvement was limited to a start against Barnsley and a late run as a sub in the win over Cardiff, before he suffered a bout of shingles.
At times it meant Johnson and Browne having to play in more defensive roles when both are better served going forward.
Neil said: “Browney’s best attribute is running on to things, getting up the pitch to support others.
“He is a real athlete with lots of energy who can break off at angles around the box.
“DJ likes to drop between the lines and pass the ball, he gets us building.
“There is no doubt that we have missed Ben Pearson.
“Earlier in the season we played through the middle areas a lot more than of late.
“I have to make sure the way we play suits the players we have got.
“There is no point putting someone in there and asking them to do something which isn’t one of their strengths.”