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First Team News

Neil On Blues Test

18 January 2018

With this weekend's visitors struggling at the wrong end of the table, manager Alex Neil is expecting a a tough match against a side desperate for points.

Birmingham City currently sit 23rd in the Sky Bet Championship but they have turned their form around of late, winning three of their last four games, and the PNE boss feels that will give them an added confidence going into Saturday's clash at Deepdale.

North End were 3-1 winners at St Andrew's earlier in the season, but the manager feels a lot has changed since that game in September.

“I think a lot of things have changed, circumstances of where we are in the league and where they are in the league makes it different as well.

"Obviously, they’re under pressure and are fighting for their lives so they need the points. A lot of the personnel has changed as well since that game. It’ll be an entertaining match, for a team that’s down towards the bottom end they’re quite expansive and will go and try to win the game.”

On the opposition, the gaffer continued: “If you’re one of their players you shouldn’t need motivating, they’ll want to pick up the points, they need to get themselves higher up the league.

"Equally, we need the points for our own purpose, so it should make for a really entertaining match. They’ve got some good players and it’s going to be a tough match.

“They’ll be really disappointed that they’ve invested that cash in terms of where they are in the league. They’ve certainly got the quality to be further up, and I’m sure Steve will be pleased with the run they’ve been on, winning three of their last four games. They’ll come with a certain element of confidence, so it should be a tough match.”

With plenty to play for in the Championship for the majority of teams, the PNE boss is expecting more open games as the season goes on as teams desperately fight for points at both ends of the table.

“Teams have obviously give us the respect that we deserve, coming and making it more difficult for us to break them down. We’ve got to be good enough to try and find a way to do that.

"I’m not sure the Birmingham game is going to be like that, they’re in desperate need of the points so I would probably anticipate that one being a bit more open.”

“In the second half of the season most teams start to really go for the game. You’re at that stage now that whether you’re at the top end of the table or the bottom end, wherever you are you need the points.

"We are in a similar situation to most teams now where we’re desperate to get the points, so we can break into that top six. Draws aren’t really enough for us now, so we need to start to try and get three points on a regular basis, and home games in particular are the ones we need to target.”

The manager has previously spoken about finding different ways to win games, and feels that winning games when the team don't perform as their best could be crucial for the rest of the season.

“Sometimes you need to win games when you don’t deserve to win them and I don’t think we’ve actually done that this season.

"Most of the games we’ve got points from we’ve thoroughly deserved it, so whether it be a fantastic performance and a good win, or a scrappy win and a not so good performance, now the results become more important than the performance for us. Obviously, as always, we are focused on trying to play well and hopefully nine times out of ten that amounts to points.”

There are few occassions where North End haven't performed well and deserved something from the game, and the gaffer is pleased that it's a rare occurance, saying: “I think we can probably rhyme them off on one hand which has been pleasing, and it shows you the level of quality we’ve managed to churn out week in week out. Now we need to try and find another five or ten percent, which I think we’ve got, to get ourselves beyond that point and really try and push ourselves to become a top team.”

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


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