Neil’s forward thinking

Greg Cunningham's fitness will be assessed ahead of PNE's clash with Reading at Deepdale
Greg Cunningham's fitness will be assessed ahead of PNE's clash with Reading at Deepdale
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Alex Neil says Preston need better decision-making in the final third of the pitch to get the goals flowing rather than doing things ‘off the cuff’.

PNE, who host Reading at Deepdale tomorrow, have scored once in their opening three Championship games.

That came from the spot against Sheffield Wednesday a fortnight ago.

To balance things out, at the other end they have leaked only one goal – a penalty at Derby in midweek.

Neil is happy enough with his side’s approach play but wants sharper thinking in and around the opposition’s box.

“There are a few things we can look at but the players have got to understand what each other are doing,” said North End boss Neil.

“If you are just working off the cuff, wide players might be looking to cross it when the striker is dropping out to try and get the ball.

“Whereas if you have got a good understanding, when the ball is in a certain area of the pitch they will all know what we are trying to do.

“If we are looking to put a cross into the box, we need to commit numbers in there.

“But if we are going to try and play in pockets, we need guys to drop off and be in those areas.

“At the moment we are a wee bit off the cuff and we need to improve on that.

“Our retention of the ball has not been good enough at the top end of the pitch.

“We have got into good 
positions but our final choice or pass has not been the right one.

“It is decision-making from the players.

“We can set up training drills where they are banging the ball in the top corner from Monday to Friday.

“But Saturday is the key day where it happens for real, it is about being able to replicate the quality I know the players have in a match.”

Neil has question marks over the fitness of two players for Reading’s visit after being in the wars at Derby.

Greg Cunningham hurt his knee, hyper-extending it after landing awkwardly.

A bang on the head saw Paul Gallagher having to pay a visit to hospital, the player remembering nothing of his time on the pitch.

Said Neil: “Gally didn’t feel well after the game and we got him checked out.

“The lad was off yesterday to rest and we’ll see how he is.

“Hopefully Greg will be okay, it is a bit early to say at the moment.

“You need a proportion of your team who are willing to put their bodies through the wringer and on the line.

“Greg’s knee was giving way and he was still trying to play on, which not many players would do.”

PNE turned down a bid from Cardiff for Cunningham this week.