Alex Neil’s defensive concerns: Preston slip to the bottom of Championship as goals continue to be leaked

Preston North End's Manager Alex Neil
Preston North End's Manager Alex Neil

Alex Neil was left frustrated that a change in approach failed to halt Preston’s poor form and saw them slip to the foot of the Championship.

The 3-2 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane was a missed opportunity in that the Lilywhites battled back from being 2-0 down to pull level with eight minutes left.

But a share of the spoils was to evade them as the Blades carved PNE’s defence open a third time in the 87th minute to take the points.

It was a third defeat on the spin for Neil’s men, with them shipping nine goals.

They swapped places with Ipswich at the bottom of the table after the Suffolk side drew with Bolton.

Neil went with a 3-5-2 in South Yorkshire, his team sat deep to try and keep the hosts at bay.

They held out until nine minutes before half-time, with a second goal conceded early in the second half.

The tide turned as Callum Robinson and Daniel Johnson found the net in the 80th and 82nd minute, only for United to score their winner with 87 minutes on the clock.

Neil said: “You have seen my teams for more than a year and how we set up this time is not generally how we set up.

“But when we have gone toe-to-toe with teams and gone right up against them, it has been causing us issues.

“I thought we needed to try an alternative to get a foothold in the game and let us build.

“It is stupid saying it now but keeping a clean sheet was a main aim yet we conceded three goals off the back of it.

“When we conceded the first goal we had to open up to try and get the next goal.”

The goals from Robinson and Johnson saw North End find the net in an away league game for the first time this season.

Neil believes his side do carry a threat going forward, with it being the other end of the pitch causing him more of a concern at the moment.

Said Neil: “We scored two goals so there is a threat there.

“What we need to do is make sure that as a team, we stop conceding goals.”

Lukas Nmecha missed the game with a knee injury, with Neil choosing Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen up front in preference to Louis Moult.

Neil was pleased with the impact Johnson and fellow sub Brandon Barker made from the bench and wants to see that more consistently.

“They did well and if they were playing like that every week, they would be starting,” said Neil.

“That is where we are at the moment. People come in, show some quality and then the next week don’t perform as well as I think they can.

“I thought the subs were excellent when they came on and I’m hoping that if they are giving an opportunity they can play that well from the start.”