Alex Neil hails Paul Gallagher’s influence as Preston find form

Preston North End's Paul Gallagher battles with Norwich City's Josh Murphy
Preston North End's Paul Gallagher battles with Norwich City's Josh Murphy

Alex Neil says being able to call upon Paul Gallagher’s services again has helped Preston get back on track.

The midfielder made his 200th North End appearance in the 1-1 draw at Norwich, that a third start in a row after an injury and illness hit season.

Although Gallagher has been substituted in the latter stages of them all, PNE boss Neil is glad of his experience.

“Gally was excellent again at the weekend, some of his passing was fantastic,” Neil told the Post.

“He deserves a lot of credit because he’s worked hard to get himself fit and back in the team.

“Gally has found himself back in the team basically by being himself and doing the things he does best.

“He delivers a ball superbly with that right foot of his and has an air of calmness.”

Since Gallagher got back into the team against Bolton, Neil has been careful not to overuse him – happy for the 33-year-old to give him the nod when he’s tiring.

Neil said: “At Norwich, he got a booking and there were a couple of times when he just had a bit of a struggle to get back.

“He was looking over to me as if he was asking me to do him a favour and take him off, so I obliged.

“At Bristol City he signalled he was done and that’s all I need to know.

“That is how you have to work with the experienced players.”

Gallagher missed part of pre-season training with a tight hamstring, but was fit enough to be on the bench for the opening few games.

He suffered concussion in August’s defeat at Derby and not too long after returning from that lay-off, was taken ill with a bout of shingles.

Effectively, the 33-year-old had to do a mini pre-season to get his fitness levels back up before returning to the squad last month.

Appearance No.201 is set to come for Gallagher against QPR at Deepdale on Saturday.

North End will be without Daniel Johnson who serves a one-match suspension for five yellow cards.

However, Ben Pearson comes back into the equation after a ban.

Meanwhile, Tom Clarke stepped-up his comeback from a torn Achilles tendon when he played 90 minutes of PNE’s Lancashire Senior Cup defeat to Bury yesterday.

Clarke had made two brief sub appearances at Bristol City and Norwich but the cup clash gave him the time on the pitch he wanted to build-up his match sharpness.

Goalkeeper Declan Rudd also played the full game as he strives for fitness after a long-term thigh injury.

A strong North End XI lost 2-1 at Bury’s Carrington ground, their goal coming late on from Daryl Horgan.