A first for Alex Neil: Preston bench kept warm in cup clash

Alex Neil was not a man for change during last week’s FA Cup clash with Norwich City at Deepdale.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 4:00 pm
Preston North End's Tom Bayliss in action

For the first time in his two-and-a-half year reign as PNE boss, Neil did not use a substitute in a competitive fixture.

He chose to push his starting XI through the full 90 minutes, mindful no doubt that they were needing of the time in their legs.

Having made nine changes, some of those who came into the team hadn’t played for a while.

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Tom Bayliss for example, hadn’t appeared in the first team since September, this only his fourth appearance.

His midfield partner Ryan Ledson had been limited to three starts in the league and so will have benefitted from a run out.

Had the scoreline been closer going into the latter stages, you sensed Neil would have turned to his bench to bring on fresh leg.

But it was six minutes from time that North End scored their second goal to pull back to 4-2.

Four times Neil had limited himself to making one substitute, the latest occasion last month in the 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich.

Other Preston managers have done what Neil did and stuck with the starting XI throughout the game.

On the opening day of the 2001/2002 season, David Moyes didn’t use any of his subs in a 5-0 defeat to Gillingham

Since then there have only been six games that PNE haven’t used a substitute, including last week.

Before the Norwich game, the last time a sub wasn’t used came in December 2011 when Phil Brown stuck with the starting XI against Chesterfield in the JP Trophy.