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First Team News

Alex Neil Says His Side Lacked A Cutting Edge Tonight

15 August 2017

Alex Neil felt North End were off the pace in the final third tonight after his side suffered their first league defeat under his reign.

Matej Vydra's spot kick just before the hour mark gave the home side the spoils at Pride Park, and Neil felt that the Lilywhites weren't incisive enough in their decision making when it came to picking out that all important final delivery.

Speaking to iFollow after the game, Neil said: "It's disappointing as for large parts of the game we defended well. In the first half we coped with them well, they had one good chance where we should engage with the ball earlier and David Nugent gets a shot at goal and Maxi makes a good save.

"The most frustrating thing for me tonight was our use of the ball in the final third. We'd get into really good positions, especially in the first half and there was some great opportunities to slide the ball in, one through to Tom Barkhuizen, and the other was through to Callum Robinson.

"The lads worked their socks off as always, our biggest disappointment is the lack of incisiveness in the final third in terms of creating opportunites for ourselves."

Neil made one enforced change from the weekend's stalemate against Leeds United with the suspended Ben Pearson making way for defender Ben Davies.

The change saw Neil revert to a back three for the start of the game, but with PNE trailing going into the final half hour, the North End manager then opted to play two up top, with the lively Sean Maguire coming on to partner Jordan Hugill up front.

Neil continued: "All in all, I don't think we were at our best - I thought the subs that came on certainly improved us and they did well when they came on, so that's something for us to think about.

"We changed the shape quite early for the last 25, 30 minutes and we played with two up front and I thought Sean looked lively. We lacked a wee bit of energy tonight and we weren't at our best so sometimes you just have to put your hands up.

"We missed Ben Pearson tonight - we needed his canvas in the middle - someone to put a foot on the ball, slow the game down when we needed to and pick the pace up when we needed."

The only goal of the game came through Vydra's penalty 13 minutes into the second half, and the gaffer had his say on the decision when he spoke to the club media channel after the game.

"It's disappointing when it's a penalty, particularly when the linesman, who was quite a distance away has given it. I've had a look at it, he does pull him back Paul (Huntington) but they're both tussling with each other early in the move; sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't and unfortunately for us, the penalty was given.

"For that 12-15 minute spell at the start of the second half, we didn't use the ball anywhere near well enough which meant we were under pressure. We didn't really make good defensive decisions either.

"Up until that point, they got in behind us once, whereas during that spell they probably got in behind two or three times and it was through rash decisions from us so that's something we need to improve from if we want to make sure we go to difficult places and pick up points."

Hear more from Alex Neil on tonight's 1-0 defeat via the video at the top of this article.


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