Declan Rudd or Michael Crowe? Preston North End boss Alex Neil’s goalkeeper dilemma ahead of Bristol City

Preston boss Alex Neil insists his choice of replacement for suspended goalkeeper Chris Maxwell will not be a straightforward one.

It is widely excepted that Declan Rudd will get the nod to face Bristol City at Ashton Gate tomorrow (3pm) but Neil has left the door ajar for Michael Crowe.

Declan Rudd and Michael Crowe are competing for a start at Bristol City

Declan Rudd and Michael Crowe are competing for a start at Bristol City

Signed to push Rudd and Maxwell, 22-year-old Crowe has caught the eye in training.

Whether Neil would start him – Crowe has yet to play in the Football League – remains to be seen.

But he will certainly make the matchday squad for the first time as a PNE player.

“We brought Michael here as a young, up-and-coming keeper to try and displace the two who had been playing.

Preston goalkeeper Michael Crowe will be in the squad for the clash with Bristol City

Preston goalkeeper Michael Crowe will be in the squad for the clash with Bristol City

“To be fair, he has shown up really well in training since he came back from an injury. The problem we have had is finding Michael some game-time recently.

“In terms of a third keeper in the squad, I would prefer to have an up-and-coming one rather than an older keeper who is trying to see out his days as a training keeper.

“Michael will be hoping, as I will , that he has the scope and potential to become a better player with us.

“We are without Maxi for tomorrow and I’m more than comfortable putting either of the two others in.”

Rudd started the first eight Championship games of the season before giving way to Maxwell at Sheffield United on September 22.

Maxwell’s absence is the legacy of his sending off at Ipswich last week.

Two bookings led to a red card, Paul Gallagher going in goal for the last 20 minutes.

Neil felt that Maxwell was perhaps unfortunate with the first caution but the second yellow was avoidable.

“They will say that with the first one, if their lad had got a clean contact he would have gone on and scored, hence the booking,” said Neil.

“I thought the second one was ridiculous, I don’t think that Maxi should have found himself in that position.

“He was nearly out on the touchline and there was no need to get involved.

“Saying that, I don’t know how much of a free-kick it was.

“If that had been a left-back making the challenge, would he have been booked?

“Every position on the pitch is held accountable in a different way.”

North End head down the M5 tomorrow looking to make it seven games unbeaten and trying to put a first away win on the board.

Neil thinks that earlier in the season, his side were too open in the opening stages of away games.

They often had to chase games, whereas a strength last season when they won 10 away was building their way into matches.