Preston North End manager Alex Neil pleased to have experienced trio back available

Alex Neil felt that experience counted for plenty in Preston's victory at Nottingham Forest.

Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 12:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 1:35 pm
Preston defender Ben Davies challenges in the air with Nottingham Forest striker Daryl Murphy

The North End boss was able to bring Ben Davies, Tom Clarke and Daniel Johnson back into the starting XI at the City Ground.

All had played key roles in helping PNE put together a nine-game unbeaten run and were badly missed in the 3-0 defeat against Birmingham which halted that sequence.

Clarke and Davies came into the back four, while there was a deep midfield role for Johnson.

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Preston skipper Tom Clarke clears the ball under pressure from Nottingham Forest's Matty Cash

Neil said: “We needed to have more experience.

“In the defence we had Tom and Ben back – although Ben is a young lad, he has played a lot of games for us in the last two seasons.

“To get DJ back in was also crucial, his composure on the ball helps us.

“That said, his use of the ball in the first half wasn’t what it should have been.

PNE midfielder Daniel Johnson competes with Joao Carvalho

“But he got better and it was great to have him back.

“There has been a lot of talk about our injuries but that is what we’ve had to put up with.

“We’ve still got four or five players out and we are not talking about guys who don’t play very often.

“We are talking about Ben Pearson who is our talisman, Callum Robinson our leading scorer and Sean Maguire who is an important striker.

“Recently we’ve had to put up with a lot of bodies out, so to be on a run of one defeat in 11 games speaks volumes for the lads we have here.”

Davies had missed the 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough due to a hamstring ‘irritation’.

He made it back as far as the bench at Birmingham but Neil admitted it would have been too much of a risk to bring the defender on there.

Davies has played 55 games this season and last, with him becoming such a key figure as the left-sided centre-back.

Skipper Clarke was able to play at Forest with the aid of a protective mask to cover up his broken nose.

The fracture and the fact he got an infection saw his face and upper lip swell-up.

Clarke is likely to have to wear the mask for a few more games yet.

At the end of the season he might undergo surgery to straighten the broken bone.

Neil said: “It wasn’t easy for Tom to play but he just got on with it.

“At right-back he’s been terrific for us, he has really made that position his own at the moment.

“He is really aggressive and showed good use of the ball.”