Alex Neil said his Preston North End players deserved their plaudits for their performance in the 2-0 away win at Leeds United in the Carabao Cup second round.
Daniel Johnson converted an early penalty and Brandon Barker scored a stunning solo effort to double the lead before the break, but the Lilywhites had to play for over an hour with ten men following Ryan Ledson’s dismissal.
Despite being down to ten men, PNE restricted their West Yorkshire counterparts to few clear openings and the gaffer said his players were worthy of the praise that would come their way for their reaction to some difficult results.
“That win has been coming for us,” Alex told iFollow PNE. “I think against Stoke we should’ve won and in the last two matches we’ve been on top when we conceded the first goal and that first goal is crucial.
“We nicked the ball three or four times in the first five minutes and we could’ve potentially been two or three up. We get the penalty and score; they’re the chances we haven’t been putting away of late, we’ve nicked the ball in great areas but it’s that next little bit that makes the difference
“We’re really pleased and I think you could see the frustration from myself and players tonight on the pitch in terms of wanting to put it right because we don’t like losing football games. I think people thought we were just going to turn up here with it being a Cup game and go through the motions.
“I spoke about the strength in my squad and I think you could see that tonight. We had some great performances right across the pitch, the only problem now is they’ve got a game on Saturday and ran themselves into the ground a little.
“We’ll look at that over the next couple of days but I’m extremely proud of the players and I thought the fans were fantastic and we gave them a really great spectacle, certainly for 30 minutes where I thought we were the better side. And then when we needed to dig in, we did that. We played ten against a team that’s been blowing everybody away and we’re really pleased.”
The PNE boss commented on a number of impressive individual displays from his team, including Ben Davies who skippered the side for the first time and Barker, who scored the brilliant second, but ultimately said every player taking to the field on the night was impressive.
“Ben got given the captaincy because for me we need to get him out of his shell more. He’s a fantastic talent and I think he’s going to go on to become a top, top centre back and I want him to be one of the leaders within the group. He’s only 22 and that might be asking a lot but I think he’s capable and he showed that tonight. I’ve got as much confidence in him as I have the other lads and they repaid that tonight with a really good performance.
“He [Barker] played at Morecambe and I had to take him off and he’s then come on as a sub in other games, so we wanted to try and build him up.
“What he did tonight, like against Morecambe, is show how dangerous he can be around the edge of the box. He’s got great pace for the counter attack and great quality with it so we’re really pleased with him as I am with the rest of the lads. All the plaudits they will get are thoroughly deserved.
“The one thing we have to remember is that a lot of these are young lads, so they’re going to dip but we need to have the patience with them to keep trying to get them to become better and more experienced and make better decisions.
"If you look at the team tonight, it was really young and to add to that, we bring Lukas on who’s 19. They did fantastically well and we need to make sure we take that type of performance into the league because that’s our bread and butter.”