Preston boss Alex Neil targets strength in depth before end of transfer window

Alex Neil regards bolstering the depth of his Preston squad as a priority ahead of the close of the transfer window.

The Lilywhites boss seems content with the quality of players in and around the first team but underneath that he would like more options.

Ben Davies, who came in for Ben Pearson at Derby, battles with former PNE striker David Nugent.

Ben Davies, who came in for Ben Pearson at Derby, battles with former PNE striker David Nugent.

He highlights the shortage of cover for midfielder Ben Pearson as an example, Neil changing the system for the 1-0 defeat at Derby in order to replace him.

On the subject of bringing in an alternative for Pearson, Neil said: “That is certainly something we would like to try and address.

“I think the difficultly we have got is that if Ben is fit and available, how many players are going to be pleased to come here and play second fiddle to him and be of a standard to do a similar job to Ben?

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“We are not looking to replace our top 10 players, we are looking to replace maybe some of the other guys who are not getting game-time.

“To replace our top players would prove difficult for us, particularly with the budget we have got.”

Pearson is back available for Saturday’s Deepdale clash with Reading, having served a one-match ban at Derby for his red card against Leeds.

In midweek, Neil switched to a 3-4-3 formation to combat his absence – defender Ben Davies coming into the side.

Davies played on the left-hand side of the defence and stayed on in the middle when North End changed to a 4-2-3-1 as they chased the game.

Said Neil: “I just felt that having worked as hard we did at Leeds when down to 10 men for 37 minutes, we needed to have that extra cover.

“I put another centre-back in to make sure our other two weren’t being chased down the channels.

“Derby play with their two wide players high up the pitch – Johnny Russell and Andreas Weimann – with Matej Vdyra and David Nugent up front.

“That is a dangerous four, a very quick four, so I didn’t want to leave my back line four versus four.

“I was really comfortably with the shape and with how it worked.

“The problem was when we got the ball to go and punish Derby, we weren’t as effective with it.”

Neil gave the squad the day off yesterday to recover from Derby, with them back in at Springfields this morning to build up to the Reading game.

PNE’s main fitness issue for the weekend surrounds Greg Cunningham.

The left-back injured his right knee in the latter stages at Derby, landing awkwardly after going up for a header.

Cunningham managed to play on after treatment but pulled up a second time.

Paul Gallagher is a doubt, having received a bang on the head at Derby and complained of blurred vision.

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