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First Team News

Neil Looking For Balance

31 October 2017

Manager Alex Neil wants his North End side have the right balance between defence and attack against Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

North End conceded just four goals in the first ten games of the season, and Neil wants his side to be solid defensively once again, while maintaining their attacking threat at the top end of the pitch.

The Lilywhites are short of options at the back with the defensive department hit by a number of injuries, but the PNE boss wants those who come in to prove their place in the side and show what they can do.

Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the clash with Villa live on Sky Sports, Neil said:

"We’ve not had any fortune in terms of keeping the consistency in the back line. Obviously we’ve lost Greg which is a big blow for us but young Josh has come in and done great; and now we’ve lost Ben Davies and Tommy Spurr, who were battling it out for left centre back at the start of the season.

"So both of them are missing just now and then Hunts is suspended, so it’s certainly testing times at the back but it is what it is.

"It’s their opportunity to come in now and show that they should have been playing from their point of view – which is good because we all want them to show that. Equally that they can come in and do a job and hopefully put themselves into a position where they’re seriously considered to start the next game.

"We’ve just go to make sure that the balance between attack and defence is right. We need to allow our guys at the top of end to go and try and score us goals but equally we need to try and make sure that we try and keep the opposition out at the back as well. So we probably need to do a bit more work on that but equally there’s a difference balance to be struck.

"Sometimes when you do the defensive work you become blunt at the top end and then when you try and score as many goals as you can, you can start to be a bit porous at the back. Hopefully we can try and get that balance.

Villa come to Deepdale on the back of a derby day draw with Birmingham City on Sunday, and after watching the game, the gaffer knows that with the quality they have in their side, Steve Bruce's side don't need to be at their best to get the three points.

"To be honest, I thought Birmingham did really well for 60-70 minutes and probably should have scored three or four goals up until that point. For Aston Villa, from about 75 minutes on they had about a 10-15 minute spell where they’ve hit the bar twice and the keepers had to pull a great save out.

"One thing that stood out for me in that game is that they don’t necessarily need to be on top of their game; but if you give them any sort of real opportunities they have real quality to hurt you.

"They’ve heavily invested in the team, they’ve got a lot guys. They’re obviously trying to get back to the Premier League at the second time of asking. It’s going to be a difficult match for us but equally there’s no reason why we can’t go and try and win the game."

North End have lost just three of the 14 league games so far this season, but the manager knows his side have been competitive in every game they've played but Neil wants his side to make it count when they are on top in games.

"We’ve played 14 games this year and arguably we could have won them all. I don’t think there was any game where we’ve walked off the pitch thinking ‘they were a lot better than us and deserved to beat us’.

"Any defeat we’ve suffered has been by the odd goal. I thought the Fulham game we deserved to win, which we didn’t, I thought Wolves was harsh and then Brentford was split into two for me. Funnily enough I thought first half we didn’t do well enough but then in the second half we did a lot better; but we conceded two goals in that spell. That’s something we need to try and improve quickly and make sure that when we’re on top, we need to try and get those goals."

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


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