Alex Neil believes Preston North End better equipped to deal with Watford this time around

Preston boss Alex Neil feels tonight’s clash with Watford will be different if for no other reason than he will have full-backs available for selection.

Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 8:00 am

North End were on the end of a 4-1 beating at Vicarage Road where, as on Friday against Blackburn Rovers, Neil opted for a 3-5-2.

On that occasion Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair were used as the wing-backs, with few other options.

The 39-year-old said: “We went into that game with no fit full-backs at the club, we went into that with two wingers at wing-back.

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PNE boss Alex Neil has better options available than when the Lilywhites last faced Watford

“Playing a centre-back out there, particularly against Ken Sema and Ismaila Sarr, guys who like to be one-v-one – that’s where their bread and butter is, so that would have been really difficult.

“We tried to clog that area but when you do that you tend to give away possession a little bit more because naturally  you have got more men behind the ball than in front of the ball.

“That game was a difficult game for us because we were trying to plug gaps everywhere.” 

Neil is wary of what Watford are capable of, fresh off the back of a 6-0 win over Bristol City at the weekend.

After being relegated from the Premier League last season, the Hornets boast some pedigree amongst their ranks.

They were expected to be among the front runners for promotion at the first attempt, but their current position of fourth is a sign of the strength of the league for the PNE boss.

Neil said: “There are a few teams in the league that you know if they turn up with their ‘A’ game, it’s going to be a difficult match and I think Watford fit into the category.

“They’ve got a Premier League squad and people like Tom Cleverley, who’s won the Premier League, playing in the middle of the pitch. He’s mobile, good on the ball, aggressive.

“They’ve got Sarr who is worth 30 to 40 million, so they’ve got some good players and we know it’s going to be a difficult match. 
It’s not easy to win games in this league.

“Even if you’ve got guys who have played at a higher level, the issue you’re probably going to have with those types of squads falls down to application and understanding what the Championship is and the relentless nature.

“In the Premier League it’s probably more of a technical, tactical match.

“In the Championship you have got some little guy who is desperate to play at that level hanging off your ankle, kicking you every time the ball comes towards you.

“Some of those higher-profile players in the league don’t like it so your challenges become a bit different when you’re dealing with that type of squad.”