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First Team News

Neil Delighted His Faith In His Side Pays Off

26 September 2017

First Team News

Neil Delighted His Faith In His Side Pays Off

26 September 2017

Alex Neil felt the faith he has in his players was repaid tonight with his attacking forces earning his side the three points late in the day.

With the game in the balance at 1-1 - away from home with 20 minutes to go - most managers would have been forgiven to shield the point and bring on defensive reinforcements.

However, the North End boss decided to go all out for the win by bringing on Josh Harrop and Callum Robinson - and then later Daryl Horgan - all of whom would look to surge forward rather than sit back.

Speaking to iFollow after the game, Neil was delighted that his game plan came off as Callum Robinson’s goal three minutes from time ensured North End returned back to Lancashire with all three points. 

“The players deserved the win for their efforts,” said Neil. "I thought in the first half we were the better side and created the better chances, scored a really good goal but the frustrating thing is, is that in the second half we concede from a set play which is really frustrating for us as we’ve been great at them this season but then we’ve got a choice to make - as a team and as a group - do we feel sorry for ourselves away from home and hope just to eat the game out or do we go for it and try and get the three points.

“This group that I’ve worked with up until this point has given me the confidence to burst the game open and be aggressive and they embodied that decision by going on to win the game.”

“The one thing that I’m going to say is that I’m going to get criticised in the future for making those decisions and it going the other way, but the fact is we had one point at that stage and I’d much rather risk it and try and get three than just accept one. That’s a common trait for me but sometimes it doesn’t work and then you’ve got a bit of egg on your face but that’s the job of a manager, to make decisions and taking the consequences when it goes wrong.”

The gaffer made just the one change from Saturday’s draw to Millwall with Alan Browne coming into the side for Josh Harrop with Neil keen on North End playing the ball through midfield and into the forward line.

“We were looking to pass through the middle areas which is something we haven’t done as much in the previous games but it was something we focused on,” explained Neil

“I didn’t think our passing was great in the first 30 minutes and we made the game to and fro a bit but when we did string a couple of passes together, we cut them open and caused them problems and I knew that was the way to beat them. Equally we had to make sure we looked after the ball better and I think we can certainly improve on that – certainly in that first 30 minutes – but we showed bravery to go again once we conceded the goal.”

The influence of the three players came on was not only significant from an attacking point of view, it emphasised the strength in depth currently at Neil’s disposal, and the gaffer reiterated their importance to the side as the season goes on.

On the initial change that saw Sean Maguire push up to lead the line at the expense of Jordan Hugill, Neil continued: “We changed it as I thought Michael Dawson dealt well with Jordan Hugill as he’s well versed with dealing with big strikers and we just wanted to pose them with a different threat.

“If I’m being honest it was on my mind to do it at the weekend and I didn’t and that was something that niggled with me a little bit - so certainly leading into this game I was hoping that Sean’s pace and direct running down the sides would cause them problems. I thought Jordan did well when he was on but Sean just gives us a different option and lucky for us, we managed to get the goal.   

"I’ve said to the players afterwards that if we’re going to be successful this year, it’s not about 11 players, it’s about a squad. Some may be frustrated at the moment that they’re not playing and getting as much game time but when called upon, they need to perform as well as they can and that gives me difficult decisions to make going forward and I’m delighted for the likes of Daryl, Josh and Callum who’ve been waiting for their opportunity and it was really pleasing and they’ve made a big contribution tonight to getting the three points."

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