Preston North End hope Barnsley's visit is the last without fans inside Deepdale

Preston North End will complete a full season at Deepdale without fans when they face Barnsley tomorrow.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 8:00 am

It is an unwanted landmark to say the least, all 23 home Championship games played behind closed doors.

Hopefully this will be the last game with the ground empty, with things closer to being back to normal for the start of the 2021/22 campaign.

North End interim head coach Frankie McAvoy has thanked the PNE fans for showing their support in other ways during the enforced absence.

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Tom Barkhuizen could switch up front for Preston North End against Barnsley at Deepdale

It is getting on for 14 months since Deepdale’s turnstiles last clicked.

McAvoy said: “Supporters make the game. Football is not the same when the fans aren’t there.

“It’s been really difficult throughout the world with Covid-19 and the most important thing is people’s safety.

“Once we know that there is a clear guideline for them to come back into the grounds, everyone will applaud that.

“I’d like to thank our fans very much because it has been a very difficult season.

“We didn’t do as well as we would have hoped to and that is disappointing.

“Latterly what we have done is secure ourselves in the Championship.

“For the support the fans have given the players and the club, I’m eternally grateful.

“I know the people who run the club and work here, the players and the staff, are very grateful, so a massive thank-you.”

It is a tough last home game for North End, with Barnsley secure in the play-offs after a fine run of form from the end of October onwards.

They were fourth-bottom when Valerien Ismael took the manager’s job.

Under the Frenchman they have won 23 of their 37 matches, with 11 victories on the road.

McAvoy said: “I don’t know what their budget is in terms of other teams but what they have done is fantastic, every credit to them.

“The aim for everyone in the Championship is to try and get to the Premier League, that is what makes this division such a tough one.

“Only three teams can get there in a season and two places are already secured.

“You look at the teams in the play-offs and it won’t be easy for any of them.”

McAvoy is unlikely to alter the side too much in the wake of last week’s 1-0 win against Coventry, a result which secured their Championship status.

He could recall Greg Cunningham at left wing-back which would free up the versatile Tom Barkhuizen to play up front.

Barkhuizen played as a striker in the last home game against Derby.

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