Alex Neil said some of Preston North End’s fringe players wasted their chance to impress as they exited the Carabao Cup at the hands of League Two Accrington Stanley.
The Lilywhites boss made nine changes from the opening day win over Sheffield Wednesday with John Coleman’s side running out 3-2 winners after a dramatic conclusion to the first round tie at the Crown Ground.
Stanley led for a large part of last night’s Lancashire derby, Jordan Hugill cancelling out Ben Richards-Everton’s opener 20 minutes from time.
AS IT HAPPENED: Accrington Stanley 3-2 PNE
MATCH REPORT: Accrington Stanley 3-2 PNE
It looked like Neil’s men would then go on to show their Championship class but a frantic final seven minutes ripped up the script.
North End felt Andy Boyle was fouled in the build-up as Jordan Clark put the hosts back in front in the 86th minute.
A looping Hugill header then levelled things up in stoppage time only for Billy Kee to grab the winner with pretty much the game’s final act.
When asked whether his side’s performance had made picking a side for the Championship clash with Leeds on Saturday easier, Neil’s one-word response was “yes”.
“It was a bit mixed,” he expanded.
“We had some decent displays, we had some poor displays. The frustrating thing is we made nine changes to the starting XI and it was giving some of these lads an opportunity to stake a claim.
“Some of them will be happy with themselves and some of them won’t.
“Unless you give them the opportunity you won’t know.
“It’s up to them to grasp that opportunity and play as well as they can.
“It’s not as if it’s a game that’s out of their reach in terms of going on to win.”
The North End boss insisted his side did show some positive signs.
“I don’t think we were terrible,” said Neil.
“Because you lose to lower league opposition in the cup everybody assumes you’re rubbish. The fact is we didn’t play rubbish.
“We created opportunities but didn’t take advantage of them.
“In the end we got hurt with a sucker punch and we’re out of the cup.
“There were bits and pieces but we can play a lot better than that.”
The winner came as Preston failed to deal with a corner, Tom Dallison heading goalwards with Kee flicking the ball home from close range.
“We’ve spoken about a lack of aerial dominance,” said Neil.
“Paul Huntington is our biggest player and he was on the bench tonight.
“We’re relying on other players to go and win their headers. Unfortunately for the last goal we didn’t.”