Alex Neil has been impressed with how Preston midfielder Alan Browne bounced back from being dropped before the international break.
Browne suffered a rare benching for the 1-0 victory at Bristol City – it was the first time he had been among the substitutes for a league game since last Boxing Day.
But restored to the side for the last two home games against Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough, he scored in both and looked back to his best.
Lilywhites manager Neil said: “Alan got dropped out at Bristol City.
“I just felt he was showing signs of fatigue, mentally as much as anything else.
“I’ve asked a lot of him since I have been here and maybe that had an effect.
“I had a good chat with Alan, dropped him out but in the last two games he has shown why he is a player who I rely on so much and trust.
“He was sensational when we beat Blackburn, and again on Tuesday night Alan came up trumps.”
Browne set up the first two goals against Blackburn and later scored the fourth.
In the 1-1 draw with Boro, he fired Preston into a 43rd-minute lead with a fine finish from just inside the box.
That was his sixth goal of the campaign, adding to the nine he got last season.
Before that, Browne had gone 16 months without a goal.
He has been troubled by a shoulder ligament injury of late, that problem seeing him return early from Republic of Ireland duty.
But it has not affected him in the last two games and it must be hoped Browne can carry the form of the last two games into Saturday’s visit to Birmingham City.
Browne providing goals from midfield is important in light of the injuries which have hit the North End attack this season.
Neil was down to his last 18 senior players against Boro, including Calum Woods who has not played since August.
Interestingly, he only made one substitution on Tuesday night with Lukas Nmecha coming on for Louis Moult.
Neil said: “In the summer I talked about us adding depth to the squad, in that any player could come in and do a job.
“That was showcased on Tuesday night.
“But what you want later in games when someone is tiring is the option of someone to come on and do a similar job.
“That is our difficulty at the moment.
“When Brandon Barker and Tom Barkhuizen tired, we hadn’t got the pace to put someone on to stretch it.
“Graham Burke was on the bench but is a different kind, he is more of a ‘pocket’ player.
“Lukas Nmecha can run but he is a centre-forward.
“We are very stretched for options.”