Preston North End manager Alex Neil praises the display of his much-changed back four against West Bromwich Albion

Alex Neil gave a pat on the back to his much-changed Preston North End defence which came so close to shutting-out West Bromwich Albion's attack in last night's defeat at Deepdale.

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 6:00 am
Preston North End defender Paul Huntington during the clash with West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale

The Lilywhites looked on course for a goalless draw until Albion were awarded a controversial penalty as the clock ticked into the 90th minute.

Declan Rudd was judged to have brought down substitute Kyle Edwards, only for replays to show the North End goalkeeper had not made any contact.

The 1-0 defeat brought to an end their unbeaten home record in the league.

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PNE duo Paul Huntington and Brad Potts slide in on West Brom's Jake Livermore at Deepdale

North End boss Neil was without defenders Darnell Fisher, Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies, Andrew Hughes and Tom Clarke.

Paul Huntington came in for his first Championship start since January and only his second appearance of the season - his other came against Hull City in the Carabao Cup.

Neil said: "We have spoken at length this season about having better depth than I've had in my time here and this was an example of that.

"Paul Huntington came in having not started a league match for us this season and I thought he was excellent.

Paul Huntington blocks a shot from West Brom's Grady Diangana

"Young Jordan Storey did well, I thought Joe Rafferty like he always does gave everything he has got.

"Alan Browne filled in at right-back and never lets us down wherever he plays."

A commanding performance from 32-year-old Huntington clearly caught Neil's eye.

Despite this season's shortage of action, there were no signs of rust on the long-serving centre-half.

Neil said: "I'd like to think and I hope Hunts thinks the same but I always try and treat my senior players with the utmost respect, chat to them to make sure they know the situation they are in.

"The simple fact is that as a manager I can only pick 11 players and that is difficult.

"Patrick Bauer has come in and done extremely well this year and Hunts has had to bide his time and be patient - I'm sure it has been frustrating for him.

"He got an opportunity and he did well."

Bauer was the latest defender to join the casualty list, a thigh muscle injury ruling him out.

The German's absence ended an ever-present run in the Championship this season.

Assessing the absence list, Neil said: "Some of these are not long term injuries which probably makes it a bit more frustrating.

"I was hoping Hughesy was going to be fit on Sunday to train but he didn't quite make it, we will hopefully have a test on Ben Davies this week.

"Darnell we will see how he progresses this week and go from there.

"Patrick's quads were really sore after the last game. He thought he was fine after a couple of days but he had a knock just above his thigh. A few fibres in there have been strained.

"He had a scan on it but fortunately it isn't a long one."