Chance for a rest: Preston aiming to freshen up ahead of Christmas schedule

Alex Neil has welcomed a clear midweek in Preston North End’s schedule ahead of a busy run of games over Christmas.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 6:00 am
Preston North End's Manager Alex Neil

The Lilywhites have won back-to-back matches but Neil felt that in the 2-1 victory over Luton at Deepdale their play was a bit laboured at times.

This week the squad will have a mix of rest and training ahead of Saturday lunchtime’s visit to Cardiff City.

That is followed by the Boxing Day trip to Leeds, then home games against Reading and Middlesbrough.

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North End were made to battle for the three points by Luton who sat in to try and hold on for a point.

Jayden Stockley got the winner in the 84th minute, the striker having come off the bench eight minutes before.

Neil said: “When you play against a team who open out when they have the ball and close when they don’t have it, when you nick the ball you need to puncture them straight away.

“We tended to play too many passes and allowed them to get back in shape.

“It was a tempo thing and you’ve got to remember that some of these lads have just come back in.

“Paul Gallagher was out for three games, Andrew Hughes is only just back.

“Paul Huntington has just come back into the side, David Nugent hasn’t started many games consecutively.

“You could see a bit of rustiness, while Alan Browne looked a bit tired after playing a lot of football – Sean Maguire too has played a lot.

“So this week’s training in terms of giving them a little bit of rest then getting them going again will be really beneficial for us.”

PNE got off to a flying start against the Hatters, Gallagher scoring in the fifth minute.

He had seen a penalty saved by Luton goalkeeper James Shea but followed up to net the rebound.

The visitors levelled with a penalty of their own just before half-time, Huntington harshly judged to have clipped Callum McManaman.

In the second half, PNE did the lion’s share of attacking but were almost caught out on the counter-attack in the 80th minute.

Luton substitute Harry Cornick got clear on goal but Declan Rudd saved superbly with his legs.

Neil said: “Declan was great, it was a big moment. If he didn’t save that, Luton were likely to have won it.

“We responded to that and Jayden scored the winner not long after. It is moments like that when games are won and lost, the margins are so fine.”

Meanwhile, North End’s youth team face Bristol City at Deepdale tonight in the third round of the FA Youth Cup.

Kick-off is at 7pm, season card holders get free entry while admission is £4 adults and £2 concessions.