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A change for the better: Preston North End’s substitutes made a big difference in the draw at Aston Villa

Alex Neil admits the impact his substitutes had in ending Preston’s losing run took even him by surprise.

Against Aston Villa, Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher and Louis Moult all came off the bench to score.

Preston North End's Paul Gallagher celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Aston Villa

Preston North End's Paul Gallagher celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Aston Villa

It is believed to be the first time in the era of three subs that this has happened with North End.

While PNE manager Neil always wants his substitutes to go on and make an impact,he didn’t envisage the three to take centre stage in the way they did at Villa Park.

Neil said: “I have had subs come on and make an impact in games before but for them to do it in the manner they did was a little unexpected.

“I would like to sit here, say that was planned and that I knew they would all score, but I won’t.

“We put DJ on at the start of the second half because we thought he would give us more control of the ball which he did.

“Gally was on for his quality at set-pieces and because we were working well down the sides of the pitch.

“With him out there, we were able to put over better balls into the middle.

“We made the change to bring Louis on much later.

“I didn’t want to have two strikers on too early because our No.10 was causing Villa a lot of problems.

“The Villa midfield wasn’t pressing our midfield because they were worried about our player in the No.10 role.

“Had we gone with two strikers earlier than we did, their defenders might have dealt with that and allowed the midfield to push out.

“If that had happened, our control of the ball might then have been lost.

“That was working well, that is why I delayed Louis.

“But once we made it two each and were working the ball down the sides, Louis was perfect for the box.

“He proved that with the header from Gally’s corner.”

While the substitutes took the limelight, Lukas Nmecha got his first start for more than a month at Villa.

Neil hopes the display from the Manchester City loanee was a sign of things to come after an uncertain start to his time at PNE.

“We have managed Lukas carefully so far,” said Neil.

“He probably thought he would come in and rip up the Championship, but that was never going to be the case.

“I thought the other night he looked like he had a point to prove.

“Lukas looked more than capable of damaging teams in this division.

“What he has to do, is to continue to play with that edge.

“There is a lot of pressure leading the line at 19, but I think he showed the other day, in a really difficult game, that he is up to the job.”