PNE ready for Villa test says boss
Alex Neil does not think his Preston side have swerved too far off course despite the loss of back-to-back games.
North End will be looking to get back on a winning path when they face Aston Villa at Deepdale tonight (7.45pm).
PNE boss Neil is keen to keep the defeats to Brentford and Wolves in context, and is looking at results across the season rather than just in the last couple of weeks.
Neil told the Post: “We have to look at the season and the Brentford defeat with a balanced view.
“What football is guilty of is being really high when you win and then really low when you lose – as a manager you can’t allow that to happen.
“We have played 14 games so far this season and arguably we could have won all 14.
“The games we have lost we have done so by the odd goal.
“I think the boys have played particularly well in a lot of the games.
“We have never come away thinking the other team were miles better than us – that is a big positive.”
Neil wants the focus to be on facing Villa and not on the two defeats, and is also quick to remind his players that they went nine unbeaten before losing at Wolves.
“The way we gauge it us that we should have more points on the board because of how well we have played,” said Neil.
“Those games are gone now and it is about what we do in the next game.
“It is important the lads maintain their confidence and belief in what they are doing – they are good players.
“We have a lot of scope for improvement but equally they have done well this season.”
North End’s shortage of central defenders tonight has been well documented, with four missing through injury, illness and suspension.
Andy Boyle and Calum Woods look set to team up in the middle.
Where PNE do get a boost though, is the return of Alan Browne to the midfield after a one-match ban.
“I thought Alan was a big miss in terms of the energy he gives us,” said Neil.
“Anyone who plays against him knows they have been in a game, his running power is normally at the top of the stats for us in terms of the ground covered.
“He has been influential and if we can add goals to his game, we have got a cracking player there.”
PNE striker Jordan Hugill will be looking to maintain his scoring form against Villa.
Hugill found the net three times last season when the Midlands outfit were the Lilywhites’ opponents.
He scored in the 2-0 win at Deepdale and then twice in the 2-2 draw at Villa Park in January.
His solo effort for the first that afternoon won him PNE’s goal of the season award.