Improving on the road is Preston North End boss Alex Neil’s Christmas wish

An ideal Christmas present for Alex Neil would be for Preston North End’s away form to get a boost over the coming days.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 6:00 am
Alan Browne is one of the options to play at right-back in Preston's visit to Cardiff tomorrow

Lilywhites manager Neil takes his side to play Cardiff tomorrow lunchtime (12.30pm) before heading to Leeds on Boxing Day.

Both Cardiff and Leeds boast strong home records while PNE have struggled on their travels.

It is formidable form at Deepdale which has carried North End into third place, while on the road they have taken eight points and scored six goals.

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Neil said: “We need to adapt a little bit more away but I wouldn’t say it has to be a huge change.

“This season we have had to change the way we play quite a lot and maybe we have got caught between styles.

“It’s good to have an identity even if you have to tweak it now and again. When you are having to change things, the message might get lost a bit.

“That is something I’ve been keen to clarify this week with the lads.”

It might be that PNE need to be a bit tougher on the road in order to be hard to beat.

Both Championship away wins finished 1-0, with Neil’s men grinding those out at Birmingham and Charlton.

Said Neil: “I just think we probably need to scrap it out a bit more, we have been a bit too easy to beat at times.

“When I first came here we got criticised for a lack of creativity at home against the so-called lesser teams.

“We have resolved that but it’s had it’s consequences.

“It is difficult to go from dominating the ball at home, being more expansive and scoring more goals, to being resolute strong defensively and hitting teams on the counter-attack away.

“That is a balancing act, what naturally happens is that you improve one thing and the other side drops a little bit.”

Neil’s major selection issue for the early start in Wales is the right-back slot.

Darnell Fisher and Joe Rafferty are both suspended, as they will be for Leeds.

Alan Browne and Tom Clarke are the candidates to fill the vacancy.

Clarke has the presence and height which will come in handy – the Bluebirds are a physical side.

On the flip side, Browne is quicker and has looked quite comfortable when he has filled in at right-back.

However, moving into the back four would take him out of midfield.

Neil has options to play in Browne’s attacking midfield role but he does like the Irish international’s style playing off the main striker.

“The injury situation has certainly improved but now we have a couple of lads suspended,” said Neil.

“It’s not ideal but we will adapt to it.”