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Alex Neil on what Preston North End need to do to find winning formula

Sean Maguire could return to the Preston squad against Wigan tomorrow
Sean Maguire could return to the Preston squad against Wigan tomorrow

Alex Neil has identified some better game management and decision-making as key to Preston getting back on a winning track.

PNE picked up their first point in five matches when drawing 3-3 with Aston Villa in midweek.

But it could so easily have been all three at Villa Park with them going 3-2 up with just eight minutes left.

As it was, they shipped a 91st-minute equaliser and it needed a penalty save from Chris Maxwell right at the end to preserve the draw.

North End host Wigan at Deepdale tomorrow in need of a victory to lift them off the foot of the table and send them into the international break in good heart.

Addressing PNE’s position and the shipping of goals, Neil said: “It is not down to a lack of ability. We have displayed our ability – if you haven’t got the ability you don’t score three goals at Villa, you don’t score two against West Bromwich or two away at Sheffield United.

“The ability is there but it is about making key decisions at key times.

“Watching the Villa game back, my frustration is that Villa didn’t have one chance in the second half until they scored their third goal.

“Then all of a sudden they score from a corner and get a penalty within four minutes.

“Nothing changed apart from the fact we had taken the lead.

“We have got to make sure we see the game out better.

“Do that and we’re walking away with three points.

“At Aston Villa I think you could see a bit of panic when we took the lead because we were desperate not to let it go.”

Neil has a decision to make as to whether to include Sean Maguire in the squad for the first time this season.

The striker has been out of action since late July when he damaged a hamstring tendon in a friendly at Oldham.

PNE have been careful not to rush him back, mindful of the fact he suffered a similar injury last season.

Yet the Republic of Ireland yesterday named him in their squad for the games against Denmark and Wales, despite his lack of action.

Neil did not shut the door on the possibility of Maguire making the bench tomorrow but will make a decision after training today.

Brandon Barker’s health will be assessed after illness forced him to miss out at Villa Park.

North End will also check on Darnell Fisher who got a knock late in the Villa game and had to be substituted.

Looking ahead to Wigan’s visit, Neil said: “Our position in the league is disappointing and frustrating for everyone.

“But we look forward to the next game and if we do the right things and play well there is no reason why we can’t get the win.”