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First Team News

Second Half Response Delights Neil

16 September 2017

After a stern half-time team talk, Alex Neil was delighted with his side's response after they recorded their first away victory of the season with a 3-1 win over Birmingham City, moving them within touching distance of the top two.

North End trailed at half-time through Maxime Colin who found the net just ten minutes before half-time which ensured Neil's team talk during the break was far from complimentary.

"You could probably describe it as passion, anger - because I want this team to do well and I want to win," said Neil when he was asked to describe his half-time team talk. 

"I don't like losing and if they give me everything they've got on the day and if it's not enough, then I can accept that but I don't think they gave me as much as they could in the first half.

"That was really frustrating because I spent the last three or four days preparing for the game and getting them ready and their task is to go out and do it on the pitch.

"Everybody can have a bad game but it's about committment, passion and doing everything you can and as you could see in the second half, there was more to come."

The response Neil was looking for came just 11 minutes into the second half, with former Villa man Daniel Johnson grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck with an excellent individual goal, before goals from Jordan Hugill and Tom Barkhuizen capped off a perfect second half; a far cry from the first 45 minutes which saw North End second best in most departments, echoed by Neil in his post-match comments.

He continued: "I don't think we did ourselves justice in the first half. It takes different characteristics to win a game away from home and put on a good performance and the first thing you have to do is win the battle, pick up second balls, win tackles, headers and we didn't do any of that in the first half and that's what I focused on at half-time.

"I made the players aware that what they produced in the first half was unacceptable for the standards that we set from ourselves so it was up to them; they could either shy away and crawl into themselves or they could stick their chests out and perform in the second half which they did.

The group that we've got, I expected the latter and I got the latter so they deserve a huge amount of credit for that."

North End welcomed back the returning duo of Daniel Johnson and Calum Woods, with the latter making his first start in over a year, and Neil gave credit to how his side have coped with the loss of personnel.

"I don't think that up until this point, this squad has been given enough credit given for how many things they've had to cope with. Tom Clarke, Greg Cunningham, Darnell Fisher, Ben Pearson, DJ, they've all been missing for spells.

It's Calum's first game in over a year, and it was John Welsh's first game in over a year (on Tuesday) so to come away with a result from a really difficult venue is great. It's our first away win since January and the amount of things we've had to cope with, they've still come out of the other side fighting and I can't speak highly enough of my players."

For more reaction from Alex Neil as he goes on to discuss Daniel Johnson's performance, the impact from the supporters and Calum Woods, watch the video on iFollow, which can be accessed above this article now.

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