Sheffield United vs Preston North End: Preview

Bramall Lane will be hosting PNE this weekend in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Credit: Kopii90, Wikimedia.

Preston North End will be travelling to Bramall Lane this weekend in the hopes of securing a fifth round spot at Sheffield United’s expense.

The fixture will be a repeat of the third round in 2015, in which a 1-1 draw at Deepdale saw a replay in Yorkshire. PNE won that game 3-1 thanks to goals from Pauls Huntington and Gallagher, setting up a huge tie with Manchester United.

A deal agreed between Sheffield United and North End has meant that over 2,000 fans will be making their way to the game, thanks to the affordable pricing. Credit: Hudson6dogs, Wikimedia.

Lilywhites’ boss Alex Neil is expected to name a heavily rotated side, similar in the way they did at Wycombe in the third round. Goalkeeper Declan Rudd is expected to start, with Darnell Fisher a possibility to return from injury.

New signing Louis Moult is likely to lead the line having made his debut from the bench in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham last Saturday. The wings are open to change too, with Billy Bodin – a recent arrival from Bristol Rovers – making his debut in the third round previously and Daryl Horgan also having to settle for a place on the bench regularly.

Alan Browne, who hasn’t managed to break the first team of late, may be deployed in the ‘Ben Pearson role’ to protect the backline but after a standout display in the third round – accompanied by a thumping volley from range – John Welsh could give him the license to roam.

Chris Wilder has described the team he will name as ‘competitive’ with the Blades, like North End, more focused on getting into the play-offs. Billy Sharp has found his best source of games to be the cup competitions, with Leon Clarke and Clayton Donaldson favoured in the league, but the recent signing of James Wilson compounds his situation further although both may feature.

The two side have already met once this season, a 1-0 win played out in PR1 in the Lilywhites’ favour, but for a lot of North Enders the play-off semi-final in 2009 may still ring in their memories – with over 2,000 making the journey.