Preston crank-up preparation in readiness for restart of Championship season
Preston’s build-up to the season resuming has had some important fine-tuning with two friendlies to give the players some much-needed match practice.
The Lilywhites played Wigan and Burnley in the space of 24 hours, with PNE manager Alex Neil able to give most of the squad a run-out.
Having had inter-squad games previously, being able to face other teams was a big step-up in the preparation for this weekend’s re-start against Luton at Kenilworth Road.
Jayden Stockley and David Nugent netted in a 2-2 draw against Wigan at Deepdale on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday, Scott Sinclair scored a superb individual effort to secure a 1-1 draw with Burnley at Turf Moor.
Both games were played behind closed doors, as the league fixtures will be.
Neil divided the squad in two for the games to try and get an equal amount of work into most of the players.
It will need all hands on deck from Saturday onwards, with PNE scheduled to play nine games in 33 days.
Hopefully there will then be additional matches in the play-offs – North End resume in sixth place.
Peter Ridsdale, advisor to PNE owner Trevor Hemmings, said: “Alex gave as many of the lads he could 90 minutes.
“This is not like the usual pre-season where you might play players for 60 minutes and then change everything for the last 30 minutes.
“They were two good games and everyone is looking forward to getting back to playing at Luton.”
There will be more places up for grabs in the remainder of the season.
Championship clubs last week agreed to allow 20 players in a match day squad, with five substitutions allowed in a game.
That will give Neil plenty of flexibility with his bench and the open the door for more players to force their way into contention on match day.
The five substitution rule is for the remainder of this season only, the Premier League having agreed the same change.
With a shorter training build-up to the resumption after football’s long break and the intense burst of games, it was felt wise to have extra players available to try and cut down on injuries.
Meanwhile, North End’s and their fellow Championship clubs will come together to thank NHS workers when the season resumes.
All shirts will carry the ‘NHS Rainbow – Thank You’ emblem for the remainder of the season, with there being a period of applause before this weekend’s games
Teams taking part in the League One and League Two play-offs will have the same emblem on their shirts.