Preston North End will have to manage without Daniel Johnson’s creativity for a while longer as the midfielder waits for a knee injury to mend.
PNE’s leading scorer hurt his left knee in the 1-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion on December 2.
His absence will now extend into the early weeks of 2020 which is a blow considering the good form he was in.
Johnson has scored eight goals in the league this season, five of them from the penalty spot.
He also contributed a number of assists playing in an attacking midfield role.
North End manager Alex Neil said: “DJ is not going to be right for a few weeks.
“I think we have missed him as well, that creativity at the top end of the pitch.
“He gives us that extra link as a No.10, one who plays in the spaces teams leave. Certainly at home we have missed that creativity.”
In the six games Johnson has missed, the Lilywhites have scored five goals.
His style of play was missed in Sunday’s 2-0 home defeat to Reading.
After Johnson, PNE’s next two highest scorers in the Championship are Paul Gallagher and Tom Barkhuizen who both have five goals – Barkhuizen has two more to his name in the League Cup.
Sean Maguire has netted four league goals, with Josh Harrop on three.
Like Barkhuizen, Harrop scored twice in League Cup action earlier in the season.
Neil said: “At the moment two of our highest scorers in the league are DJ and Gally.
“It shows how pivotal DJ is to how we want to play.
“Of late, goals have been harder to come by and the fact he is not there certainly contributes to that.”
Johnson was injured making a tackle in the WBA game.
His ice-cool approach from the spot saw him net five out of five of the penalties he has taken.
But he scored from open play twice in the 5-1 win over Barnsley and once in the 3-1 victory against Stoke.
In Johnson’s absence, Neil has tried a variety of midfield combinations.
Against Leeds he opted for Ben Pearson in the holding role, with Brad Potts and Alan Browne pushed further on.
After showing well in the Elland Road clash, those three were given starts in the Reading game.
On New Year’s Day against Middlesbrough, Paul Gallagher is a likely starter after two games on the bench.