Alex Neil admitted there was responsibility to be shared between both him and his players for the 1-0 home defeat to Millwall, but felt the outcome might have been different had his side taken one of their early opportunities.
The Lilywhites started extremely brightly, with chances falling for Daniel Johnson and David Nugent in the opening stages, while the gaffer also felt Tom Barkhuizen should have been awarded a penalty in that period.
However, they failed to open the scoring, with Shaun Hutchinson’s second half header proving the winner for Gary Rowett’s side – much to the gaffer’s frustration.
“I think what’s happened a lot of the games this season is when we have been on top, particularly first half at home, we’ve made it count – we’ve took that chance that came our way,” he told iFollow PNE.
“I thought today we should have had a penalty first half, I think then we had probably two other good chances where we should score, we didn’t take them opportunities. You’re always worried at that stage that at some stage it’s going to come back and bite you.
“I think second half, the wind started to pick up a little bit and I made two aggressive changes to try to win us the game because I felt that it was a great opportunity for us, I wasn’t happy to settle for a point, and I think that we didn’t really have enough of the ball to be affective at that stage.
“But it didn’t really work and unfortunately for us we conceded from a set play, which was the difference in the game. I think that we couldn’t really apply pressure at the top end of the pitch in the second half as much as we’d like; Nuge started to tire and we needed that energy really to get about the three centre backs, to try to stop them pinning us in.
“We just never really got a foot on the ball, I think even when we did turn it forward – obviously I know we’re lacking height up there – but we also need mobility to make sure you get about those centre backs and I think that was probably my biggest frustration.
“I think I come away from the game thinking that I could have probably maybe selected a bit better.”
The gaffer said responsibility must be shared for a disappointing result, but pointed to the Lilywhites remaining in the top six at the end of play on the day, following two away wins earlier in the week, as reason aplenty to remain grounded.
“It’s one of them where I’ll take my medicine, the players obviously need to take their share of responsibility in terms of the bits we delivered in the second half.
“We’ve got 13 games left, we’re still in the Play-Off positions, and we were never going to win all the matches so what happens is, when you’re winning, everything’s great and we’re going to get promoted.
“We just need to keep a level head, the fact is we’re disappointed today we didn’t do better in the second half, we didn’t win the game, but we just need to focus and get ready for the next one.”
Josh Harrop and Paul Gallagher were introduced just after the hour in a bold move by the manager in search of a winner – changes the manager admitted perhaps didn’t work out, and for which he wouldn’t make any excuses.
“They probably started a little brighter in terms of picking some loose balls up and I could have just went and toughed it out and been happy with a point, or we could have went and tried to force the force the issues with a couple of aggressive changes.
“I’ve done it countless times before and it’s worked in our favour, today it didn’t work in our favour because we couldn’t get the ball down and ultimately, we didn’t really do enough. I’m not going to make any more excuses, it is what it is.”
The manager is now looking ahead to next weekend’s visit of Hull City to Deepdale as an opportunity to refocus and get back on track, with his side having gone an impressive six-match unbeaten run before this defeat.
“I think that teams like Brentford and even Fulham haven’t been able to break it [Millwall’s shape] down, so I think that just shows how difficult it can be to break that shape down. We know we can play better, we will play better.
“What we can’t do is get too carried away; the last two games we’ve won and the boys have been brilliant, so we just need to accept it for what it is and move onto the next.”
Watch more from the gaffer on iFollow PNE.