A return to winning ways against Watford on Saturday left Derby right in the middle of the league, just below halfway positionaly in 15th but eight points from both the play-off and relegation places. Paul Jewell`s side will be looking to put their inconsistency behind them and go on another run of results after picking up four points from their last two games and it was a Rob Hulse winner against Sheffield United that set them on a run last time.
Paul Connolly will be out for at least a month with a knee injury picked up in the televised clash at Charlton so Martin Albrechtsen looks set to continue at right-back after a solid display from Nyatanga and Tomkins at the heart of the Derby defence against Watford. Miles Addison was named captain in that match and will continue in that role against Preston with a shortage of midfield options although Paul Green has returned to training and is looking to make a comeback as soon as possible.
Preston sit in eighth, outside the play-off places on goal difference, and eight points ahead of Derby going into this Boxing Day clash. A narrow victory over Birmingham City last time out at home was followed by a 3-2 reverse at Loftus Road against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. With an FA Cup third round clash at home to Liverpool on the horizon Alan Irvine`s side will be looking to consolidate their place in the top ten and maybe even move into the play-off places with a victory. The two sides drew 2-2 when they met at Pride Park on 25th November with all the goals coming in the first 32 minutes in an incredible first half and The Rams won 1-0 last time out at Deepdale with a Paul Green header handing them victory in their Carling Cup clash.
‘Rob was ill this week. He lost a lot of weight and only had his first training session on Wednesday.
He is a terrific pro and I feel he is still finding his feet after a year out of the game (because of injury).
This was his seventh goal for us this season and I think that’s a decent return’
Paul Jewell talking to Radio Derby about goal scorer Rob Hulse`s season so far.
Preston North End Team News:
Billy Jones, Richard Chaplow, Neil Mellor and Stephen Elliott all return to the squad after injury and illness although Wayne Henderson and defenders Liam Chilvers and Neal Trotman are still out.
Player to watch: Ross Wallace
The Preston danger man last time out at Pride Park causing problems down the left all match with his running and quick feet, on loan from Sunderland and a deal that Alan Irvine would love to make permanent.
Derby County Team News:
Rob Hulse pushing for a recall following his recovery from illness after scoring from the bench against Watford and his fellow sub Nacer Barazite, who set up the winner, will also be looking for a starting spot. Paul Connolly out for up to four weeks with an injury pickled up against Charlton last Monday.
Player to watch: Rob Hulse
Returning to full fitness after a bout of illness and scored the winning goal on Saturday. Has been the main stay of the front line so far this season and is leading scorer in the league with seven so far.
Match Facts & Stats
Last five results
Preston North End
Bristol City (H) 2-0 Elliott, Wallace
Cardiff City (A) 0-2
Doncaster Rovers (H) 1-0 Parkin
Birmingham City (H) 1-0 Parkin
Queens Park Rangers (A) 2-3 Sedgwick, Davidson
Stoke City (A) 1-0 Ellington
Crystal Palace (H) 1-3 Varney
Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) 0-3
Charlton Athletic (A) 2-2 Ellington (2)
Watford (H) 1-0 Hulse
It`s been close between these sides in their two previous clashes this season with a victory for Derby earlier this year at Deepdale and a draw at Pride Park. This encounter will follow those lines with both sides having a share of the spoils after a 1-1 draw.
28th Dec v Ipswich Town (Coca Cola Championship) Pride Park