Preston’s young left-back Josh Earl is facing more time on the sidelines after undergoing knee surgery.
The teenager had a minor operation to repair cartilage damage yesterday.
Earl was injured against Aston Villa on November 1, straining a medial ligament and evidently, suffering a tear in the cartilage.
North End hoped that the injury would heal naturally but his knee swelled-up when the teenager attempted to step-up his training.
He had surgery yesterday morning and his recovery has been put at ‘a few weeks’ by PNE boss Alex Neil.
With Greg Cunningham yet to come back from injury, it leaves Calum Woods and Kevin O’Connor to cover at left-back for the time being.
Neil told the Post: “Josh has required a bit of surgery and we are hoping that will resolve itself.
“Because he is so young, sometimes these things can heal themselves.
“But the problem we have is how long is a piece of string?
“Every time he tried to step-up and get him moving, his knee was swelling-up.
“It’s minor surgery Josh has had to get it cleared-up.
“We have a definitive timeline which lets us plan and prep in terms of his rehab.
“Before that we were going day by day and it wasn’t really improving.
“He is going to be a few more weeks now.”
Earl broke into the team in August after Cunningham was ruled out with a detached tendon.
He was the surprise choice with him only signing a pro contract in the summer after coming through the North End academy.
But Earl made the position his own and was given a new three-year contract as a award for his progress.
He started 12 games on the bounce before hobbling off at half-time in the Villa defeat.
Said Neil: “It’s not good, we have got Josh and Greg out in terms of the left-back role.
“If you had looked at us at the beginning of the season, we had Greg, Josh, Calum and Kevin all available for that left-back role – you would have said we were particularly strong at left-back.
“At one stage or another, we have been without three of them for quite a few weeks.”
The versatile Woods has been Preston’s left-back for the last two games and looks set to continue there for the time being.
North End host Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale on Saturday.
Daniel Johnson serves a one-game suspension but Ben Pearson returns a from a ban for the Londoner’s visit.
PNE are holding a carol service on Monday evening at Deepdale (7pm). A collection will be taken for Rainbow House at the service.