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Alex Neil’s assessment of Preston North End leading scorer Callum Robinson

Alex Neil thinks Preston’s top scorer Callum Robinson is playing with a new level of maturity this season.

Robinson has scored four goals in the last five matches, his all-round game catching the eye.

Callum Robinson is PNE's top scorer this season with four goals

Callum Robinson is PNE's top scorer this season with four goals

PNE boss Neil has used the 23-year-old centrally a lot more this term but knows he can play down either wing too.

On Tuesday, Robinson was on target in the League Cup clash with Middlesbrough.

However, he did miss his penalty in the shoot-out which saw North End bow out.

Robinson also found the net against Bolton, Reading and Sheffield United.

Neil said: “Callum can play anywhere across the front four, as a No.10, a No.9 or he can play off either flank.

“His preferred flank is the left so that he can cut inside.

“Callum is a quality player and he is only going to improve in my opinion.

“He seems to have grown from being a young lad to a man in his responsibility to the team, the way he behaves and the way he trains.

“His whole approach has gone to a different level now, I’m delighted with him.

“Callum’s understanding of the game has improved, it took him a bit of time last season to grasp what we wanted.

“But his understanding, his tactical awareness and the awareness of space to play in has improved no end.”

Robinson has played with particular confidence since being on international duty with Republic of Ireland.

He started the games against Wales and Poland at the start of the month.

Said Neil: “He deserved it, thoroughly deserved it, and I think he will become a key player for Ireland.

“With his natural talent he scores goals and creates goals, I just think, all in all, things have clicked with him.”

Robinson spent much of the first four months of last season on the bench.

From November onwards, though, he was a regular in the side and started 25 of PNE’s 30 league games.

This season, Robinson is North End’s only ever-present in the league.

He did not play in the first two rounds of the League Cup against Morecambe and Leeds but faced Boro, Neil choosing a strong side for Tuesday night’s clash.

It was the first time Neil had been able to start the trio of Ben Pearson, Alan Browne and Ryan Ledson in midfield.

Pearson and Ledson have both served suspensions, with Browne missing two games this term through injury.

Said Neil: “I hadn’t really had the opportunity to play Ben, Alan and Ryan together – that was something I wanted to look at.

“With Callum up front and the wide players with their pace, I think at the moment that looks a good option.”