PNE boss considers squad rotation

Alan Irvine could give some of his star players the Barnsley chop on Sunday when Preston tackle their second festive game in 48 hours.

But, whoever gets the axe, the North End boss insists it will be nothing personal.

Irvine says he can feel a rare attack of squad rotation coming on to cope with the quick turnaround in the festive fixture list.

And that means some who play against Derby this afternoon may be excused the starting line-up at Oakwell.

He told the Evening Post: "Having two games in 48 hours makes it difficult for players to recover fully in time for the next one.

"But that applies to everyone else too. Barnsley will have the same timescale.

"Normally I go from game to game and treat each fixture separately. But with two so close together we have to look at them as a pair.

"That means we will probably try to pick two teams almost.

"So I expect the vast majority of the players that have played on a regular basis this season will play in one, if not both, of these two games."

Irvine has planned the build-up to the Friday/Sunday games to make sure his players are in the right condition to handle the extra workload.

And he believes that, even in the depths of winter, they will reap the benefits of all the hard work he put them through in the scorching heat of their Austrian summer camp.

He said: "It is at times like this that you hope that all the work you pre-season really kicks in.

"This is when you hope your squad is strong enough to cope and all those gruelling sessions back in the heat of the summer pay off."

Neil Mellor, Richard Chaplow, Billy Jones and Stephen Elliott are all back in the reckoning after missing games through injury and illness.

Simon Whaley, Joe Anyinsah, Karl Hawley, Lewis Neal and Brett Ormerod all back in the fold after loan spells.

So Irvine had plenty of bodies to select from as he went into the double-header today against the Rams at Deepdale.

He has set his players a target of six points from the two games as they look to end the year in the top six after starting it in January at rock bottom.

He said: "We've had a good year and it would be great to end it on a high with two wins."