Preston North End manager Alex Neil is looking forward to having more options for his side’s clash with Jason Tindall’s AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Lilywhites boss spoke to iFollow PNE ahead of his side’s clash with the Cherries and admitted that whilst it was nice to have a few players back, he was still likely needing to be creative in terms of his selections.
“It is pleasing,” he said. “But we still have other gaps to plug within the squad, which takes your strength and dilutes it a little, because you have to dot people into places you wouldn’t normally want to play them.
“We can’t avoid that at the moment, due to the injuries and suspensions that we have incurred and we have to plug those gaps as best we can.
“We changed to a back five against Watford and I thought the shape worked pretty well for large spells in the game and that gives us food for thought.”
North End haven’t played Bournemouth in a league encounter since the first game after Graham Westley’s departure in 2013 and much has changed since then, with every since after that seeing the south coast club in the top flight.
But having been relegated in the summer, they still have a strong squad with strength in depth: “Bournemouth are similar to Watford, in that they have spent a number of years in the Premier League and when you do that, you accumulate players who have played at that level and who have been there and done it year after year and that strength and depth naturally provides you with quality across the board and that’s where they are,” continued Alex.
“These teams are always difficult [to come up against], we have seen evidence of that over the past few years. The mentality of the three teams who have come down, so far, has been exactly what you need to show they should be back in the Premier League.
“They have got the quality in their squad and we know it is going to be a tough game, but, as we showed when we went to Norwich, we are more than capable of putting in a good performance and going and getting another good result.”
The change of manager in the summer saw Eddie Howe’s former assistant Jason Tindall take the reigns at the Vitality Stadium and he is now starting to put his imprint on the team, although Alex admits it is difficult for him to compare them to how they were before.
“It is difficult, because I didn’t watch Bournemouth last season, as we didn’t have to play them, but I have played against their teams in the past and they are always good sides.
“I know Graeme Jones, who has gone there and I can see his influence in terms of some of their flexibility that they have in terms of fluctuating from one shape to the next.
“When you have such a big squad and so much strength in depth, it is easy to do that. Are they a good team? Of course they are. They have a lot of flexibility in terms of options and we need to try and prepare ourselves for every eventuality that is coming our way,” he added.