Alex Neil’s warning to Preston North End stars ahead of trip to Ipswich Town

Alex Neil admits his Preston team need to handle the rough and tumble side of the game better than they have done in certain matches.

The weekend’s 1-1 draw with Rotherham turned into something of a scrap, that in contrast to the thrilling 4-3 win over Brentford three days earlier.

Preston left-back Andrew Hughes competes with Rotherham's ex-PNE striker Jamie Proctor

Preston left-back Andrew Hughes competes with Rotherham's ex-PNE striker Jamie Proctor

Neil points out that two defeats last season came at the hands of Ipswich who were not afraid to be direct and physical.

The fact that Ipswich are PNE’s next opponents on Saturday will not have been lost on the North End boss.

However, Neil knows his squad are capable of coping with a physical approach and uses the two wins last season against Cardiff as examples.

Neil said: “I don’t think that anyone who came to the ground on Saturday will have left and thought that was great.

“We have had our fair share of entertaining matches this season and I don’t think anyone can have any gripes about that. We’ve played some really good football at times but the Rotherham game certainly wasn’t one of those games.

“But you’re going to come up against different tests. When we played Ipswich home and away last year they played very similar to how Rotherham did on Saturday which we found very difficult to handle.

“When you have teams bombarding you and you need to pick up second balls, be scrappy and be rough, it’s probably not our biggest strength.

“But we can do it, we did it against Cardiff last year who were very similar to that and we coped well with that.

“It’s about how you perform on the day.

“If you can pick up more second balls and get that first pass in and start to open the pitch up then I think you can deal with those types of things no problem.

“But when they’re keeping the ball alive better that you, winning more second balls, or your distribution isn’t good enough then it’s always going to be a tough day.”

Against Rotherham, Neil felt the PNE midfield faded as a force as the game went on.

He had stuck with the same three – Ben Pearson, Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne – who had faced Brentford.

Said Neil: “DJ was excellent in the first half and really got us going but as the game wore on the midfield weren’t really in the game as much.

“They got bypassed by long balls and we didn’t pick enough up.”