Alex Neil was pleased with his team’s display ‘across the board’ as Preston North End ran out 3-0 winners against Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough with a fantastic performance at Deepdale.
North End looked in the ascendancy for the vast majority of the contest – with Alex even admitting that he was disappointed his side weren’t ahead at the break – but after Brad Potts opened the scoring after the hour, additional late strikes from Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis added some much-deserved gloss to the scoreline for the Lilywhites.
And speaking to iFollow PNE after the game, Alex highlighted his satisfaction with his team’s first half display, too – but for the lack of an opening goal.
“First half I thought we were very good to be honest, I thought we were better than Middlesbrough, I thought we had some really good chances; Tommy B’s springs to mind the most,” he said.
“We had some good opportunities in and about the edge of the box, some balls flashed across the front which we looked dangerous with. We were disappointed at half-time not to be leading because you know it’s going to be tough against Middlesbrough as the game goes on.
“I didn’t think we started that well, we looked a little bit flat and then we get the goal, I can see some of the lads starting to get a bit tired.
“We get the goal, that gave us confidence and we got better, but I thought the substitutes came on and made a big impact on the game, they were excellent, every one of them, and they helped us go on and win the match.”
The return of Darnell Fisher and Andrew Hughes in the two full back positions was another key aspect of the performance for the boss.
“You get natural balance; Hughesy can open up and play balls into the channel, D can step in, and you’ve got a good solid back four there with guys who are playing in their natural positions,” he added. “Unfortunately for large parts of this season we haven’t had that luxury
“To have natural footers on the predominant side, having Josh Earl back as well so when Andrew got tired, Josh came in and saw the game out for us being big and strong, it was great. You could see defensively it made us better, that’s arguably one of our best defensive displays this season.
“Andrew Hughes was excellent right throughout the whole match. Darnell does what he does, good defender, good one v one, strong, powerful. It’s pleasing across the board. We needed to start keeping more clean sheets, it makes it easier when you’ve got a natural, balanced back four.
“We knew we needed to start winning games at home, we’ve won a couple now, and we needed to score more goals. To get all those things in one evening against a difficult opponent is really pleasing.”
The manager also praised the impact of late goalscorers, Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis, whose efforts in immediate succession late in the contest.
“He’s a threat Scott, isn’t he? We’ve managed to try to get the best out of Scott in the way they play and to be fair to him I think he’s adapted his game to us as well.
“He’s been a threat the whole season and he doesn’t even need to be in the game, he can be out in the periphery of the match and then one opportunity comes and bang, he gets his goal. I’m really pleased for him, he’s individually had an excellent season so far and we just want that to continue.
“He comes on in that game at the weekend, has two opportunities, comes on tonight, makes the second goal, scores the third goal, has another opportunity. He just needs a bit of consistency and a little bit of experience at the moment.
Dipping him out and putting him back in just sporadically has done him the world of the good, it gets his hunger levels up, when he comes on he’s got a point to prove, and tonight when he came on I thought he was unplayable.
“Jayden misses his chance right before he come off because I think that goal would have done him the world of good as well. Jayden started to grow in the second, started to do a bit better, but I think we made the right changes at the right time to try to stretch the game.”
Watch more from the manager by clicking the video above.