Alex Neil delighted by Preston North End keeper Declan Rudd’s reaction to blooper at Birmingham

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Preston manager Alex Neil has applauded goalkeeper Declan Rudd for his form in the last few months since dropping a high-profile clanger in the game against Birmingham.

It is the Blues who PNE face at Deepdale tomorrow, the game bringing into focus Rudd’s howler in the reverse fixture at St Andrew’s before Christmas.

Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd (right) with Paul Gallagher at Middlesbrough on Wednesday night

Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd (right) with Paul Gallagher at Middlesbrough on Wednesday night

He allowed a harmless bouncing ball go through his legs for Birmingham’s first goal in the 3-0 defeat.

Rudd has played every league game since then, Neil standing by him and seeing that faith repaid.

The 28-year-old was in good form in Wednesday night’s win at Middlesbrough, making three first-half saves.

Neil said: “What happened against Birmingham was a big turning point for Declan.

“Naturally for a goalkeeper, that was a low because it was a big mistake.

“After something like that you can go one of two ways.

“Either you dust yourself down, get on with it and show everyone what you can do, or you dwell on it and feel sorry for yourself.

“Thankfully for us and for Declan himself, the man that he is has chosen to do the first of those.

“To be fair to him, he’s been great and has been key for us in the run we are on.”

Neil admitted he faced a big choice with the keeper after the St Andrew’s mistake.

He chose to back Rudd and that decision has proved to be a sound one.

Said Neil: “If I had dropped him out, I think it would have been harder for him to have recovered.

“I had to make a decision based on if I believed in him and could he recover.

“Knowing Declan for the length of time I have, I had no worries about him.”

Tomorrow’s clash has lots riding on it, with North End unbeaten in 11 matches and having closed to within two points of the top six.

The visitors will have a 5,500 following behind them as they look to halt a form dip.

Neil might look to freshen the team up bearing in mind the quick turnaround.

He has Darnell Fisher back from suspension, while all three substitutes – Jayden Stockley, Brandon Barker and Joe Rafferty – caught the eye at Boro.

Brad Potts was not far from making Wednesday’s game and could return tomorrow.

Tom Barkhuizen and Tom Clarke are also closing in on full fitness after knee injuries.

It could well be that Callum Robinson and Louis Moult press for inclusion.

“Callum and Louis have made great progress and we have an eye on them for the weekend,” said Neil.

North End are likely to be without Alan Browne though, the midfielder limping off at Boro with an ankle injury.