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First Team News

Alex Neil Ready For Final Push

28 March 2018

Manager Alex Neil feels his side are ready to take on the final eight games of the season as they target a spot in the top six.

PNE kick off the final run in on Friday afternoon at Hillsborough as North End take on Sheffield Wednesday. Despite a clash with fellow Play-Off chasers Derby County at Deepdale on Easter Monday, the manager has reiterated the importance of only focusing on the next game, with each game growing in importance with the right results.

Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the clash, the gaffer said: "The significance of the next one is either going to grow in significance or diminish in significance so we’ve got to make sure that do that, we want it to grow.

"We want to make sure that going into that next game it becomes even more important and that we’ve done good work prior to that to give us ourselves an opportunity.

"Ultimately we’re still the team chasing, we’ve not got anything to lose at the moment so I think that is a good place to be in because you’re always trying to gain and we’ve got to make sure that we go and try to gain ground on other teams.”

Even if his side find themselves in the top six before the end of the season, the PNE boss insists it will not change the mentality of his team who will be aiming to finish as high as possible in the Championship table.

“I think because now there’s two spots to chase for, if we manage to get into the top six we’ll probably end up being sixth so then what we’re doing is chasing fifth, because if you can get into fifth then obviously you’ve got a wee bit of margin for error then.

"So if you do lose a game, you’re hoping you don’t drop straight out of the top six, if anything the worst case scenario is you’re going to drop maybe to sixth place. So we’re in a position where we’ve been chasing the top six for quite a few months now and we’re getting to that point where it really is pressure and I think certain teams and recent runs have stuttered a little bit and let us catch up some ground.

"Equally our form has been very good, we’ve been going into it with real confidence and real belief so there’s absolutely nothing for us to fear, we want success and to have success you need to be able to handle pressure and you need to be able to perform in big games.”

The Sheffield Wednesday fixtures comes off the back of the international break, and with the style of play he has implemented within the squad, the gaffer feels the break was beneficial to his players.

“I think the international break for us is good, I think with how intense we work in games, how intense we work during the week, the detail that we try to put into the lads heads, they do need a freshen up, they need to go and unwind mentally.

"Physically they need to just rest their limbs and get themselves ready, but now we’re at the stage where every little bit matters, every little mistake’s going to be blown up to the point where it’s like a catastrophe and every bit of quality’s going to be the best bit of quality anybody’s ever seen. So we’re at that stage now where it really is sort of judgment time, and we’ve got to go and try to show what we can do.”

The manager should have the added boost of having his full squad available for the busy Easter weekend, and that can only be a positive says the gaffer.

“They’re looking forward to it and what it means is we’ve got real competition for places and the lads that are not playing obviously want to try to get into the team but equally they’re hoping their mate can go and do the job for us.

"So we’re all pulling the one way and hopefully it should make for a successful and exciting end to the season.”

The first test comes on Good Friday, and Alex knows it will be a tough game against a side who have hit a good run of form recently in Sheffield Wednesday.

"I think in terms of the way they play is unrecognisable from the team that we played at the start, even personnel’s changed significantly so it’s going to be very much a different test from the team that we played at the start of the season.”

"I think we’ve played against a back three quite often this season we’ve got a really good record against it but it’s more at the top end of the pitch where they are certainly different from most other teams that play a 3-5-2 so that’s something we need to pay a wee bit more attention to but nothing that we can’t deal with, it’s just making sure that, there is a few dilemmas in there that we are going to have to make good decisions on.”

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


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