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Alex Neil: “We Need To Perform Better Than We Did Today”

5 December 2020

Alex Neil felt that his Preston North End side didn’t play well enough in the 2-2 draw against Wycombe Wanderers after Ben Pearson went off injured in the first half.

Tom Barkhuizen had given PNE the lead 14 minutes into the game, but when midfielder Pearson had to be substituted, Neil felt that the game changed.  

The visitors turned the game around in the second half before a Jason McCarthy own goal levelled the score.

Alex told iFollow PNE: “If you’re asking me do I think we deserved to win the match, then the answer would be probably no, I don’t think we deserved to win the match. Did we have enough chances to win it? Arguably, but I thought they had chances as well. 

“I was disappointed in the performance, particularly when Ben [Pearson] went off. I thought to that point, I thought we showed quite well, we scored the goal, looked comfortable and looked to be honest as if we were going to go on and win it quite comfortably. 

“I thought we dealt with direct balls in the main in the first half relatively well. We picked up good scraps, worked the ball well, switched the play, we knew the full backs were going to be the spare players.”

The game could easily have got away from PNE once they fell behind, but the Lilywhites did find the equaliser and that’s something Neil gave his side credit for. 

He said: “If I’m looking over the piece, I thought good start, I thought once we lost Ben [Pearson] the building block was a bit of an issue for us, we didn’t work the ball well enough. 

“And I thought that when we did work the ball, I thought our quality was lacking at times, that was our biggest issue. Credit to the lads, they dug in and they found a way to get something from the match. 

“If we want to stay at top half of the table and compete at that half of the table, we need to perform better than we did today.”

Saturday’s fixture at Deepdale was a very competitive contest, with both sides showing plenty of fight and endeavour, but Alex was somewhat disappointed with some of the decisions made throughout the game.

“My biggest frustration was I thought Adebayo Akinfenwa leant in and tried to bash up my centre backs, which I’m comfortable with, but then you’ve got to allow it to happen the other way with Jayden Stockley. 

“Any time he went anywhere near anybody or anywhere near the ball, the ref gave a foul. If we’re going to do it one way, and you want to do it the other, I’m fine with that. 

“I like to see them go and batter it out and let’s see who gets the best of who. I thought the first goal they scored there could have been a foul on Josh Harrop – the lad went over the ball. For the second one, how he gets to the conclusion it’s a free-kick against Hunts, I’m not quite sure. 

“When a team like Wycombe play for free-kicks, corner and a territory, they have a big bearing. Our second goal was fortunate in the fact that it ends up in the net, their second goal was fortunate in the fact that it hits the post and lands right to the player. 

“We played wonderfully against Bournemouth and we lacked a little bit of quality tonight in terms of how we should move the ball; we did it in spells and that’s the disappointing thing.”

Pearson’s innocuous fall on 32 minutes meant he had to be carried off by medical staff and, given the Lilywhites also lost Patrick Bauer to a serious injury on Tuesday night, it was especially disappointing for Alex Neil.

He added: “It’s not getting any easier at the moment. Patrick’s out for the season, Ben Pearson looks as if he’s going to be out for a significant period now, we’ve just got him back and what a difference he does make to us – we’ve seen that at Bournemouth. 

“DJ [Daniel Johnson] has now picked up a suspension with a booking and we need to see where our full backs are. Darnell’s [Fisher] suspension might be up now. It’s not getting any easier but that’s what we need to deal with.”

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