Manager Alex Neil cut a happy figure when he spoke to iFollowPNE after the game and described the manner in which North End got back to winning ways today pleased him most.
Alex made a total of three changes from the one that drew 2-2 at Aston Villa in midweek with Jordan Storey, Tom Clarke and Daniel Johnson coming back into the fold for today’s all North West affair.
Post-match the manager described his pre-match thinking going into the game after a spirited performance in mid-week.
“I actually thought we started a bit slow and we didn’t look up to speed right away,” acknowledged the Scotsman.
“But then we started putting the ball down the sides and getting in front of them, and that was always going to be key in the game and we didn’t look up to speed right away.
“We had running power with Tom Barkhuizen, Alan Browne and Callum Robinson and I thought that would hurt them and it did throughout the game. The most important thing today is the win but I think the manner of it was really pleasing for the fans and the players and I think it will give them a huge boost now.
“For points, performance and momentum and for everybody it was crucial we won the match and in the manner that we did made it even better.”
Alex continued: “We stuck to our task; the boys did great and we deserved to win the game. We’ve been performing well in a lot of the games but sometimes there are crucial moments in the game that you need in your favour. We needed it more often than not and you can see what it means to the players and the fans today.
“My most important thing that I wanted was to keep a clean sheet. I made a big decision today in leaving Ben Davies out who is one of our best young defenders but I thought the lads who did come in did great and keeping that clean sheet was massive for us.”
As pleased as he was with the clean sheet, Alex was also satisfied with the efforts made at the other end of the pitch, particularly through Lukas Nmecha who provided an excellent focal point for North End this afternoon, and the manager heaped praised on the on loan Manchester City man.
“We brought a player in who’s got real quality pace and strength who can hurt teams but he’s only 19,” said Alex.
“He’s played in his fourth game today and it’s a learning tool for him - getting minutes under his belt. In the last two games he’s shown why we have brought him into the club. It’s a different environment to him and he’s come in as a focal point in the team which is always a lot of pressure.
“He’s took a lot of time to adjust but what I’ve said is our younger players will get better and better as the season goes on, you look at Jordan Storey today as an example.”
As well as bringing Storey back into the XI, there was also a welcome inclusion for Sean Maguire - who made his first appearance of the season coming off the bench with 15 minutes from time to make his comeback from injury.
Alex continued: “It was perfect for Seani today as he needs minutes under his belt.”
“We’ve missed him and you can see that for the fourth goal - the way he shifts his feet and goes past people, and that’s a real quality and he can run all day long. It’s key for us that he gets himself back as soon as possible.
“We’ve been down as we’ve not got what we deserved and everybody connected with PNE is thinking, we just need that little bit of quality to get ourselves there and they made their own breaks today. We’ve got two weeks now where we’ll be in good spirits and ready for the next lot of games.”
Access more reaction from Alex Neil on iFollowPNE now.