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First Team News

Alex Neil: "It's A Big Match For Both Teams"

5 March 2018

Tuesday night sees North End take on sixth-placed Bristol City under the lights at Deepdale, with just three points separating the two sides in the Championship.

With both sides battling to end the season in the Play-Off places, PNE boss Alex Neil is expecting a competitive clash against Lee Johnson's Robins.

"It will be a hard game," the gaffer told iFollow PNE ahead of the game. "I think what is at stake for both teams is going to be huge.

"There are still 33 points to play for this season, however when you are playing somebody who is in direct competition with what you're trying to do then it makes the game even bigger.

"It's going to be a big match for both teams and it's obviously one that we would like to go and try and win."

The Bristol City fixture is the first of back to back home games against Play-Off rivals, and the manager feels the support of the Deepdale faithful could be key in the push for success this season.

"I think it's crucial, I hope the fans have enjoyed a relatively good season so far but we really need their support and help to try and push us across the line to see if we can try and get in the top six by the time the season finishes.

"Our home form hasn't been as good as we would have liked and we want to try and generate a good atmosphere and get the lads going.

"Hopefully these next two games are going to be two really important ones for us."

The last clash between the Lilywhites and the Robins saw North End run out 2-1 winners at Ashton Gate back in November, sparking an impressive run of form which has seen just two defeats in 18 league games.

The manager believes both sides have evolved since then and will be going into the clash with confidence.

On the encounter earlier in the season, he continued: "We had Stephy Mavididi playing in that game, we had a few injuries leading in to the game as well so it was a good result for us and it was one of the turning points in the season for us really.

"We had drawn with Bolton the week before and then that was our first win in about six matches so it was quite significant in terms of putting us on a good run afterwards.

"Bristol will come here with confidence, they had a great result at the weekend beating Sheffield Wednesday 4-0, we have played very well at Bolton and managed to win that game and I think both teams will fancy their chances.

The squad will be boosted by the return of Darnell Fisher who will be available after suspension, and with Sean Maguire making his comeback at the weekend, the gaffer will have the majority of his squad available for selection for the first time this season.

"I think we are getting to a stage now where the majority of players are fit, and that is the first time really since I've been here that we've been in this situation.

"It's really pleasing because we are going in to the run in, a crucial time of the team, and if there was ever a stage where you want everybody fit it's now.

"We've got a couple of bumps and bruises from the weekend but it doesn't look anything too serious so hopefully we should be able to overcome that and put out a strong team to try and win the game."

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

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