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First Team News

Young Influence Pleases Neil

19 August 2017

PNE boss Alex Neil was delighted that his faith in youth paid off after North End made it two home wins from two this afternoon.

A Jordan Hugill strike midway through the first half settled the score for the Lilywhites who also recorded their third clean sheet of the season with a 1-0 victory.

Today's clean sheet however was accomplished with a youthful back four as 18-year-old Josh Earl made his professional debut at left back alongside 22-year-old Ben Davies in the centre of defence.

"I'm really pleased for the boys as they did great today," told Neil in his post-match interview with iFollow.

"I think people need to understand how well the lads played today. When you look at the team that beat Reading last year, you had the likes of Tom Clarke, Aiden McGeady and Greg Cunningham in it who are all experienced players who have all played at this level - Today we had a young 18-year-old in Josh Earl starting, Ben Davies coming in for just his second start at this level - even our front line was really young; Stephy Mavididi has come in and played his first game at this level who's 19 so for the lads to perform as well as they did was outstanding and they thoroughly deserved the win."

Four changes were made to the side that lost to Derby in midweek, including Josh Harrop who was presented with his first PNE start, and Neil was equally as pleased with the impact the changes made to the side.

Neil continued:

"I thought Jordan Hugill was magnificent and deserved his goal for his performance but I thought equally Sean Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen, Josh Harrop in behind him were great.

"The back four did what they always do which is go and put their heads in places and put their bodies on the line and then you've got DJ and Ben controlling the game for us in behind and if they do get through, Chris Maxwell's there so I'm really pleased for them as they did fantastic and it was a great day for us."

A notable inclusion saw Davies make just his second start at Championship level, and Neil took to iFollow to explain why he put his faith in the youngster today.

"Ben Davies has got real pace and you could see that with that last ditch tackle in the second half and that's why he was in the team," added the PNE boss.

"We knew they would stretch us and they've got players who are quick at the top end and Ben can cover that.

"Greg Cunningham being injured is devastating for us all but it presents an opportunity to young Josh Earl who in pre-season has shown up great so I didn't really hesitate in giving them an opportunity.

"You're not going to get many 18-year-olds who are six foot three and can run like the wind. He's got real potential and hopefully we can harness that potential and make him become one of the top left backs."

Watch the full interview with the gaffer on iFollow now by clicking on the video above.


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