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First Team News

First Goal Key For Neil

3 November 2017

Manager Alex Neil spoke about the importance of his side getting the first goal ahead of this weekend's trip to Ipswich Town.

The PNE boss feels his side are able to perform at their best once they go a goal ahead in games, with the game opening up and allowing them to express themselves.

Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of Saturday's trip to Portman Road, the gaffer said: "I’ve been looking over the season in terms of what the patterns for us have been and Birmingham and Sunderland are the only two teams that have scored and then we’ve come back into the game.

"I think that first goal is crucial for us because that then makes the opposition open up to go and chase the game and it leaves space in behind for us to really exploit. We’re certainly at our best when we’re counter attacking.

"When teams sit behind the ball and we need to break them down up until this point we’ve found it difficult to manage to do that, which makes it even more important that we go and try and get that first goal. I think then when we’ve conceded it we’ve found it tough to chase the game because we leave ourselves open at the back.

"Equally, in terms of breaking down two banks of four, we’ve found that a bit tough because to be honest, that’s not the way the lads have played for a long time. We’ve been a counter attacking team for the best part of four seasons and it can take time to manufacture the other side of the game, that’s going to take a bit of time to get that up to speed.

"Certainly earlier in the season, a lot of the time we got that first goal and then it set us up perfectly. Once we’ve got that first goal we can be a little bit more pragmatic, once we’ve scored, then invite them onto us and then we can go and break into the spaces they’ve left.

"If you look at that it leaves Jordan up there by himself who could take it in and then we’ve got runners with Alan, Sean and Tom; and their strength is getting front facing and running with the ball.

"When they’re getting the ball with their back to goal and getting it in pockets it’s maybe not as catered for them as it would be if the pitch opens up. We just need to try to firstly, bring on the other side of our game so we can manage to do that and secondly, really try and get that first goal because it gives us the best chance of getting a win."

The spirit in the dressing room has been key at Deepdale in recent seasons, and the manager admits that it's time like this, after a run of defeats, that the character and spirit of the dressing room will be tested.

"We had this discussion about a week ago, that it’s all fine and well talking about how good a spirit you’ve got and how all the lads are together – and they really are a great, great bunch – but I think a true reflection of that is how you respond to a couple of defeats, or a bad performance.

"In the main, having been there numerous times a player, experience is what gets you through that because the younger lads look for strength and the strength comes from the lads that have been there and done it before; they’re the ones that generally take the lead and take that mantle and drive things forward.

"Unfortunately for us at the moment a lot of those players are missing, however, it should now encourage some of the other younger boys to now step up to the plate and hopefully take that mantle and get us across that line until we can get some of the other boys back.

"The likes of John Welsh being missing as well is a bitter blow for us as well because John in some of the games, certainly when Ben Pearson was missing, I needed someone in there that I could rely on who was going to go and dig and bite and scrap and fight. Sometimes it’s not pretty but that’s what it takes to win that game when you’re maybe on a difficult run. I think experienced players recognise that.

"I think the naivety of the young lads, they try and play and play and play, without thinking ‘My objective is to win the game’; although I want to play well if it means I need to turn over the ball and get up and squeeze things and make it difficult, make it tough for them. That’s something I think comes with experience and we need to makes sure we find a way to win the next game."

North End will be without a number of players, with the injury list growing for PNE, but the manager knows the side need to deal with it as best they can and look to get back to winning ways.

"It’s really unusual and certainly with the nature of the injuries as well. If it was going to be soft tissue injuries, I’d be concerned about how we’d been training, what we’d been doing with them, what our travel arrangements had been – are they sitting on their hamstrings for too long and things like that.

"But the nature of their injuries, most of them are contact or planting their feet and twisting their knees so there’s not much we can do about it. We just need to suck it up and get on with it."

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


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