Heading into the new year, everything was going swimmingly for Sheffield United under Paul Heckingbottom with three successive wins being recorded in the Championship.
However, the Blades have performed below par during defeats at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Derby County, leaving them out of the FA Cup and in 14th position in the second tier.
With several matches in hand, the situation is retrievable with several players also due to make returns over the coming weeks, but Heckingbottom needs his side to rediscover their previous level sooner rather than later.
They now sit 10 points adrift of in-form Middlesbrough, who sit in sixth position, with 267 minutes having passed since their last goal at leaders Fulham on December 20.
Sheffield United have negative memories of their last meeting with Preston, the visitors twice coming from behind to eventually seal a 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane.
That game was under different management, but Preston are very much on an upward trajectory under Ryan Lowe who has collected seven points from a possible nine in the Championship.
While the FA Cup exit at Cardiff City came as a considerable disappointment, Lowe will not mind focusing his attention on the league now that they are 13 points clear of the relegation zone.
Like with Sheffield United, a playoff spot currently appears unlikely, but North End may find themselves in the top half of the table with another couple of wins in quick succession.
Preston were denied a third Championship win in succession at the weekend as Birmingham City equalised four minutes from time to earn a 1-1 draw