Preston North End manager Alex Neil is hoping his side can pick up two good results this week leading into a run of free midweeks for the first time this season.
The Lilywhites’ trip to St Andrews to face Aitor Karanka’s Birmingham City, will be their last midweek game for a month and the PNE boss is looking forward to getting some work done at Euxton.
“We have been unfortunate with circumstances preventing us getting out on the training pitches and doing as much work as we would have liked,” he told iFollow PNE.
“Last week we spoke about not coming in for four days, with Thursday being our first training day, which was not good preparation – particularly for the new lads – but we have had to deal with the situation we have found ourselves in.
“It will be good once we get these two games out of the week to have a run without a midweek game, but we have to concentrate on these first and foremost, try and get a couple of results if we can and then it gives us a few more free weeks to do some work with the new boys to bed them in.
“This week gives us more an extra day’s rest rather than an extra day in preparation, but it is certainly helpful the way it is organised.”
The first game against the Blues, back in October, saw North End play the last period of the game with ten men, after Andrew Hughes’ hamstring injury, as the gaffer recalled.
“We had made our changes at that point and as soon as we did that Andrew hurt his hamstring,” he continued. “At that point we were on top in the game and that shifted it. We got done by a cross to the back post, which is disappointing, but there was very little in the match.
“We didn’t start the game well; one straight ball down the middle and they got the goal, but we built up momentum in the game, got the equalising goal and expected to go on and win it, but that was that period where the amount of games we were playing came home to roost in terms of the fatigue of the players, because they were dead on their feet for the last 15 minutes.”
This time around Alex is expecting another tough encounter but admits that he will be spending more time on his own team’s plans, than looking too much at their opponents – something he admits is a different approach this season, compared to usual.
“I have said on numerous occasions that it is so tight in this league. You look at the results at the weekend and it doesn’t matter where you are in the table, each game is difficult.
“You are going to have to perform in every game and often it is little bit of detail or quality or a bad decision or mistake that can decide a game.
“Birmingham got an excellent result at Middlesbrough – a tough place to go – and they will be hoping to build on that, but equally we have to go there and try and win the game.
“A lot of teams are very similar now. Because the games are so congested this season, trying to analyse and ingest the opposition and how they will go about it, is probably as difficult as it has ever been.
“Other teams are changing their personnel, changing to freshen it up, changing to suit the opposition, so it is as difficult as I can remember it being since I have been at the club, so we will start to focus less on that now, because of those factors.
“Football is really quite straight forward, most of these [new] lads have played where they play on the pitch for the last 15 years, so they know exactly what they are doing. It is just a case of tweaks in terms of what the opposition are doing and having an understanding on how we will press and where their weaknesses lie.
“Equally, you have to perform well. You have to compete well, you have to move the ball well and they are the key facets of the game. The tactical aspects are important, but the performance the bread and butter really,” he added.
Wednesday's game is a 7.45pm kick-off, with iFollow PNE having full coverage from just after 7.15pm, with former North End centre half Michael Jackson joining Guy Clarke for full match overage - click here now to sign up for an iFollow match pass for just £10.