Alex Neil hails fine first half of season as Preston end 2017 on high at Cardiff

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Alex Neil hailed his side’s excellent first half of the season after Preston ended 2017 with a dramatic win at high-flying Cardiff.

MORE REACTION: Alex Neil believes PNE deserved Cardiff win

Tom Clarke celebrates his dramatic winner at Cardiff.

Tom Clarke celebrates his dramatic winner at Cardiff.

Tom Clarke headed home in the 90th minute as North End extended their unbeaten run to nine games with a 1-0 victory.

“We’re doing great,” said Neil, whose side are seventh in the Championship ahead of Saturday’s games.

“We’re nine games unbeaten, five wins and four draws, and in this division that’s extremely difficult to do.

“We’ve got 11 clean sheets so in terms of our season so far we’ve done fantastically well.

“We’ve had to contend with a lot of injuries but we’ve got a lot of hungry, young players who want to find their way in the game.

“Our aim was to try and improve on 11th and currently we have done that.

“We want to finish on more points than last season and if that takes us into the play-offs then great.

“I think we’ve shown we’re capable and with some additions in January hopefully we can kick on in the second half of the season.”

Captain Clarke was the hero of the hour on his return to the side, scoring the decisive goal after Paul Huntington’s initial effort had been saved.

“He was excellent,” said Neil.

“His aggression in terms of going and getting the first ball was important.

“Then he got that opportunity and he sticks it in.

“He finds his head in where some people wouldn’t put their feet.

“I was worried the goal wasn’t going to come but thankfully for us it did.”

Greg Cunningham also impressed on the other side of the back four, playing 83 minutes as he saw action for the first time in four months.

“Greg was first class,” said Neil.

“He’s a really quiet lad off the pitch but he’s tenacious on the pitch and gets stuck in.

“I asked him how he was feeling when I took him off and he said ‘yeah, I’ll be fresh for Monday’. That sums him up.”