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First Team News

Focus Is Key Says Alex Neil

19 April 2018

With the final three games approaching, manager Alex Neil feels that focus will be the key for his squad as they look to deal with high pressure games in the final run in.

North End sit just three points outside of the top six with three games to play, and the PNE boss wants his side to use the excitement and nerves in a positive way to ensure they get the results they need.

Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of Saturday's clash with former club Norwich City, the gaffer said: "It’s about taking all those emotions and energies and using them in a positive way. I’ve been in a lot of high profile, important games and what we’ve managed to do is get the players focused and I think that’s the key word.

"There’s going to be nerves, there’s going to be excitement, there’s going to be all of that but if that overcomes you that’s a problem. What we’ve got to do is get the lads focused and channel all that energy into an energetic display and go and try and play well.

"As a player, as a coach, as a manager you want to play in as many high profile and as many important games as possible because you end up dealing with that pressure better. You’ve been there, you’ve felt that atmosphere, you know what it takes to go and try and turn a tight game into a victory.

"What the lads will try and do, hopefully, is find solutions for the games where we came up a bit short when it was important, can we now take that next step. It’s a mental barrier as much as anything else because when you do take that next step it generates great belief. If we can get that, particularly with how young a squad we’ve got, I think it sets us up nicely for the future going forward.

It's all to play for going into the final few weeks of the season, and with plenty of Play-Off chasing teams yet to face each other, Alex expects points to be dropped and hopes his side are able to capitalise that by winning their own games.

"The teams that are around us, a lot of them, have to play each other. We’ve got Sheffield United still to play as well. It’s one of those ones at the moment, something has to give somewhere and if we can continually try to win our matches I think it puts you in great contention to try and sneak in there. I’m sure there’s another four or five teams thinking the exact same thing. It’s a great thing for us that we’ve got three games left and we’re still in contention to get there. We’ve got a huge game on Saturday that we need to focus on and make sure we win that one then hopefully, leading into the last two matches, anything is possible really."

With the visit of Norwich City the penultimate home game of the regular season, the manager reiterated the importance of the Deepdale faithful in the remaining games.

"The fans at times can underestimate how important they can be with the atmosphere. The Leeds game was a good atmosphere, especially second half when we scored a couple of goals, so that was great. QPR was fantastic - we really needed to drive on that second half and get a positive response and result.

"Our away fans have been magnificent for the full season and I think we’ve responded well with good away performances. We’d like to generate that atmosphere at home and I think if we can do that there’s absolutely no question, that will help the players."

Saturday's fixture sees the gaffer come up against former club Norwich City for the second time, and he feels it will be a different challenge to the one his side faced at Carrow Road back in November.

"We’ve moved on in terms of personnel and the teams changed as it does most seasons. We’ve got a good, young, hungry team who have done really well this year but we want to take that next step so this is a crucial game and I’m sure Norwich will be much changed from the team that played last year as well. That’s just the nature of football nowadays, there’s a lot of coming and goings with players, with coaches and with managers.

"The game has ended up that way – where there isn’t many people that stay for a length of time. We’re trying to build a bit of stability here, Simon was here for a few years and I’ve got a really important job on at the moment. Our most important task is to try and finish this season strongly and put ourselves in good contention for the Play-Offs."

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


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