Preston North End manager Alex Neil knows that Wednesday’s clash with league leaders Norwich City will be one that tests his own side’s current impressive run of form.
Speaking to iFollow PNE to preview the clash with his former employers, the Lilywhites boss was impressed by the progress the Canaries have made.
He said: “We want to continue our form, play as well as we can and this will be a real stern test.
“Norwich are doing really well, at the top of the league and for different reasons both teams will be going into the game very confident and hoping that they can pick up the points.
“Their font men were the difference for them [in their win over local rivals Ipswich Town]. Pukki has been terrific for them this season. They have got good balance at the top end – they have the directness of Hernandez, they have Buendia drifting in, who is a good technician, and Pukki makes really good runs to receive the ball, so it is going to be a difficult.
“But most teams now will be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, it is one thing knowing what they are and another thing trying to stop it and exploit it, so it will be a difficult match.
“They are a good side and what they have done, is that a lot of the lads they have brought in, who I think Daniel must be familiar with, this second season for them, they have really settled into a good unit and a good team and they will be delighted with their season so far.”
And with the challenge faced by his team, Alex thinks that it will be a game decided by who is the most clinical from the opportunities they are allowed by the opposition.
“If you look at the Ipswich game, Norwich get a goal right at the start, [Alan] Judge has a great chance for Ipswich and then 20 seconds later Pukki sticks the ball in the net at the other end and it goes from possibly being one each to being 2-0; that’s the difference at this level,” he continued.
“When opportunities come along, you have to take them and try and limit the opposition. You are never going to limit them to nothing, you just have to hope that you have done enough to make it a difficult chance or a difficult opportunity and then the question is, ‘do they have the quality to take advantage of it, or not?’.
“This is going to make for an exciting game hopefully.”
This will be the second of three games in a week and therefore the gaffer feels that he has to consider making changes, but must also respect the way the team has been playing in recent weeks.
“We have a few knocks and niggles and we will have a look at those to see who is fully fit and then make a decision based on how Norwich play, how we will play and who we think is the best personnel to get us the points.
“We are confident. We have been working really well. When you are changing a team that has not been losing there is always that risk of upsetting the flow of that way that you have been fluently playing, but we knew the weaknesses that Bolton had that we could go and exploit.
“Tommy B [Barkhuizen] came in and created one goal and scored another – probably should have scored another one or two – but performed very well and we are delighted with that,” he added.