Preston North End manager Alex Neil believes his side’s back-to-back away wins have given his side a timely boost ahead of the televised clash with Derby County on Friday night.
The Lilywhites face Frank Lampard’s Rams in front of the Sky Sports cameras and he is looking forward to the challenge, where he hopes his young side can continue their rich vein of form.
Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the game in PR1, the gaffer said: “The last two results and performances have given us a lot of confidence, belief and hopefully a bit of momentum.
“Friday night is going to be a difficult match. Derby have a young team, with good energy, good young players and they will be hoping to push on, but we will be hoping to continue in the same vein as the last two matches.
“They have used the loan market well. Mason Mount and Harry Wilson, to name a couple, have come in and done particularly well, but at some stage they are going to go back.
“The way we do things is slightly different, but when you get that quality of player it can bode well for you and they have had a major impact with Derby this year.”
The game between the sides at Pride Park back in August saw the home side come out 2-0 winners and Alex says that was one of the games that illustrates the importance of the first goal.
“The opening goal is such a big factor in a game in this division,” he continued. “Teams now are so well adapted to getting the first goal, then sitting back and hitting teams on the counter, that getting that first goal is crucial.
“Looking back to the game earlier this season, for the first 25 or 30 minutes we started really well, but then we conceded the first goal.
“We then had to try and be more expansive to get a goal back and they hit us on the counter and punished us.
“Games at this level can be swung by a small thing, whether that is taking a chance, clearing a chance or making a tackle that is really important; we are really hopeful we will be on the right side of those tight margins on Friday night.”
After two thrilling away games, Sky are probably whetting their appetite at the prospect of a good footballing encounter, but would the manager take a drab 1-0 win?
“I like the games to be entertaining. I don’t like it to be boring or a poor standard of football. I’d much rather both teams play well and may the best team win, because I have confidence in my side that if we play as well as we can, that we are more than a match for anybody in this division.
“I am really hopeful that at home we go and put in the type of performance we have had in the last two away matches.”
Victory over the Rams would take the Lilywhites within seven points of the side they host on Friday evening and the manager is hoping that his side can upset some of the promotion chasers over the coming weeks.
“This season has been a disaster in terms of injuries for us. Although we have had sporadic times where players have been available, they have not really all been at the same time.
“It has not been an easy season, management wise, to get the best from the players, because they have not been all available. Now we have found a bit of an even keel and we are starting to show the best of ourselves.
“We have done okay; considering where we have been with injuries and who we have had missing.
“I am disappointed we have not had a better season than what we have had up to this point, but that’s for the reasons we have spoken about.
“Considering that we have done okay – I am quite happy we are looking up now, rather than looking down.
“If we beat Derby, I certainly wouldn’t give up on the Play-Offs. When I went into Norwich on the 9th or 10th of January, we were ten, maybe 12 points away from the Play-Offs at that stage and just missed out on automatic promotion, so anything is capable of happening.
“If we can put a really good run together we then get Callum [Robinson] back at the start of March and we keep ticking over the way we are, then I’d like to try and scare some of the top teams above us, put a good run together and see where we go,” he added.