Alex Neil encouraged by Preston North End's change of shape despite defeat to Stoke

Alex Neil was encouraged by what he saw from Preston North End’s change of shape against Stoke City.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 4:45 pm

The Lilywhites manager went for a 3-4-1-2 formation and felt it worked well until Tom Barkhuizen’s red card.

He switched later in the game to a flat back four as PNE chased an equaliser which unfortunately did not arrive.

Ben Davies, Patrick Bauer and Jordan Storey played in defence, with Scott Sinclair and Barkhuizen in the wing-back positions.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Jordan Storey played in Preston's back three against Stoke at Deepdale

Ryan Ledson, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne were in midfield, with Sean Maguire paired with Jayden Stockley up front.

Neil said: “We started really well with that system and we’ve done it a few times before to be fair.

“We went with it at Sheffield Wednesday late last season and it worked.

“It gets us two up the pitch and it is about making sure we can get enough supply off the wide lads and enough crosses into the box.

PNE manager Alex Neil

“I thought for the first 20 minutes against Stoke when we were on level pegging with numbers, we produced about 12 to 15 good crosses.

“Ryan Ledson delivered some set-pieces which were excellent, whether they were corners or wide free-kicks.

“The Jayden/Sean combination was good, that big man/wee man combination, with Alan breaking through the middle.

“Really I couldn’t have been more pleased with the first part of the game.”

PNE striker Jayden Stockley challenges with Stoke's Morgan Fox

When Barkhuizen was sent off, Neil switched Browne to right wing-back and had Maguire dropping off to cover midfield.

Neil commonly uses a 4-2-3-1 but in the league games against Swansea and Norwich, flipped to three at the back during the second half for different reasons.

What he chooses to do at Brentford on Sunday will be interesting to note.

The Bees play a 4-3-3 and in North End’s game against them in July, Neil switched to a 3-5-2.

Brentford have a record of won one, drawn one, lost one in the Championship this season.

Thomas Frank’s men were beaten 1-0 at Birmingham on the opening day, bouncing back by winning 3-0 against Huddersfield.

Last Saturday, they drew 1-1 in the London derby at Millwall. In the Carabao Cup they have progressed to the fourth round and host Fulham on Thursday – the reason PNE’s visit is now on Sunday.