Alex Neil eager to fit goal-getters into his Preston North End line-up

Alex Neil admitted his team selection for Preston’s draw against Swansea was a tough one as he tried to ‘shoehorn goals’ into the team.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 3rd February 2020, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 5:53 am

The Lilywhites manager kept things unchanged from the win at Barnsley 11 days earlier but switched systems to match Swansea’s numbers in midfield.

Neil saw Scott Sinclair get off the mark with a superb solo effort to put PNE in front.

Quickly they got pegged back, though, with the visitors equalising through Rhian Brewster.

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Scott Sinclair applauds the Preston supporters after scoring his first goal in a PNE shirt

Sinclair operated from the right wing with Josh Harrop tucking in from the left and Tom Barkhuizen playing as the main striker.

Neil said: “The selection was a difficult one for me.

“I felt Tom, Josh and Scotty all deserved to be in the team but against Swansea you have to stiffen that middle area up because that is where they win or lose games.

“If it got a little bit loose in there we would have found ourselves chasing the ball.

“I thought our middle three were better than theirs in the second half.

“With the front three, I tried to shoehorn them in as much as anything.

“Scotty scored, Josh had scored two in three before this one, Tom scored two the last time we played.

“It is just about trying to fit in as many goals as possible into the team.

“I’ve said before that goals are the way to get out of this division, so we need to fit in as many as we can.

“Looking at the game, Swansea were better than us in the first half.

“They competed better and our goal probably came against the run of play.”

After playing a diamond midfield at Barnsley, it was back to 4-2-3-1, just with the same personnel. Said Neil: “Swansea’s two full-backs are very aggressive so if you played a diamond you would get stretched.

“You would have to repair that by pulling people to the sides and that leaves holes in the midfield.

“Our issue in the first half was that we didn’t compete as I would expected.

“I know Tom Barkhuizen isn’t a 6ft 5in centre-forward but he can put his head and body in there. He did that in the second half really well.

“When David Nugent came on he added a bit more to us.

“The second half was much more representative of what we have done this season than the first half was.

“It was a 50/50 game I thought and in the second half if anyone was going to win, it was us.

“Swansea are a decent side, they did well. If we aren’t going to win a game, then don’t get beaten.

“We’ve picked up a point and now we move on to the next game at Wigan.”