Opportunity knocks for some of Preston North End fringe players says Alex Neil

Alex Neil hopes some of the Preston North End squad can take advantage of being given a first-team chance against Norwich City in the FA Cup tomorrow.

Friday, 3rd January 2020, 6:00 am
Tom Bayliss is one of the Preston players hoping to get his first-team chance against Norwich tomorrow

Lilywhites manager Neil looks likely to rotate the squad for the Canaries’ visit to Deepdale on the back of the busy Christmas and New Year schedule.

So it could be a much changed line-up for the third-round tie and Neil wants those selected to stake their claim for a more regular inclusion.

Whether he makes wholesale changes or just a handful remains to be seen.

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But there is a queue of players waiting for their chance to catch the eye.

Neil said: “We’ve got a good squad and lads want to play.

“Billy Bodin would have been disappointed not to start the other day. Josh Harrop will want to play, Tom Bayliss, Ryan Ledson and Jordan Storey will, Joe Rafferty too.

“You’ve got a whole host of lads who want to start and we need to see where we go.

“We’ve had a busy run of games and some of the lads could do with a breather.

“Against Leeds on Boxing Day we covered the most ground that we have as a team this season – probably four or five kilometres more than we usually do.”

Neil, who managed Norwich between January 2015 and March 2017, hopes some fresh legs and energy can get PNE back on an even keel after the recent stutter.

Away draws to Cardiff and Leeds were followed by home defeats against Reading and Middlesbrough.

Said Neil: “The FA Cup can be an opportunity for us.

“There will be guys thinking they deserve an opportunity and I haven’t been able to give them a chance recently.

“It is now up to them to show what they can do. There will be fans saying, ‘Why hasn’t such and such player getting a game’?

“There will be a few people given their chance and I’m hopeful they will play as well as they can and create real issues for me going forward when I pick a team.”

Patrick Bauer is unlikely to feature, having been subbed at half-time against Boro still suffering the effects of 

Tom Clarke was not in the squad for that game, with Neil not wanting to overload him after playing three games in quick succession.

On the financial front, tomorrow’s winners will get £135,000 prize money, not an amount to be sniffed at.