Alex Neil demands return to form as Preston travel to Nottingham Forest

Preston manager Alex Neil is looking for his side to put two disappointing performances behind them when they face Nottingham Forest tonight.

Saturday’s FA Cup exit at Sheffield United came on the back of a poor display against Birmingham when they were fortunate to get a 1-1 draw.

Ben Pearson could return to PNE's midfield at Nottingham Forest

Ben Pearson could return to PNE's midfield at Nottingham Forest

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So the visit to the City Ground carries some extra significance as PNE look to find their form.

“The Birmingham game was a rarity for us in that you normally need eight or nine players playing well to win a game,” said Neil.

“We probably had nine or 10 players, even 11, who didn’t play well.

“Excluding that one, in the vast majority of games we have held our own.

“In the league we have lost one out of the last 12.

“But what we haven’t done is turn some draws into wins which is probably the biggest frustration.

“There are a few different things we have looked into in terms of changing that.

“In terms of picking the right decision at the right times, we need to execute that a little bit better.

“Maybe we can commit more men forward when we are attacking but that leaves you a bit more vulnerable to the counter-attack.”

The number of chances which North End create has certainly dropped of late, Neil readily admitting that.

They registered a single shot on target at Sheffield United, that a stoppage-time effort from Jordan Hugill.

Said Neil: “Earlier in the season we averaged about 16 or 17 shots a game.

“We had a lot of attempts on goal but didn’t take them.

“Of late, we haven’t created a lot of chances.

“It was a poor performance against Birmingham and it was quite drab on Saturday.”

Having rung the changes for the Sheffield United game, Neil has had the chance to look at the majority of his squad in the last two games.

Ben Pearson is expected to return after missing the last two games through injury, as should Josh Harrop who was missing at the weekend.

Said Neil: “There is some real competition for places now and it gives me some tough decisions to make.

“When you have got 22 players and there is not a lot between many of them, you are going to be leaving some guys off the bench by really fine margins.

“It could be something quite trivial which gives one guy the edge over another.”

As the clock ticks towards tomorrow’s 11pm transfer deadline, Neil is hoping to do some more business.

He said: “I’m happy with what we have done, however there is a bit more business we would like to do.

“A lot of that is out of our hands, so we’ll see.”