Alex Neil says Preston North End must get back to basics when games start again

Preston manager Alex Neil had been stressing the need for his side ‘doing the basics’ better in the build-up to the postponed game at Luton.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 4:00 pm

Neil felt the Lilywhites had gone away from doing that in the Deepdale defeat to Queens Park Rangers – a game which they led 1-0 until the last half-hour.

As it was, the Luton game was the first of three postponed by the EFL due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a longer shutdown envisaged than the April 4 target, there will be plenty of time for Neil to work on the basics.

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Lilywhites boss Alex Neil with Barnsley manager Gerhard Struber in January

The North End squad are continuing to train but will be closely monitored by the club’s medical staff.

Neil said: “Sometimes people try to look for the intricacies of football whereas the basics are why you win and lose games.

“We went to Barnsley in January, we were okay on the ball but did the basics well.

“We ran, we tackled, we picked up second balls, kept the ball well.

“Against QPR the other week we didn’t do enough of those things.

“We had done it in the first half and played very well. But in the second half it was QPR who did the basics better and got the win.”

Despite the 3-1 defeat to QPR and the fact it was their fourth loss in five games, North End managed to hold on to sixth place.

This enforced break in the fixture list is going to be a test for clubs on how they handle the players.

Some clubs have given their players a break, others like PNE are continuing to report in for training.

The reasoning behind keeping the players training is that their health can be closely checked and they need to keep in shape anyway.

If games are called off for a longer period as seems likely, there might be a time when training is scaled back.

There was due to be a gap in the fixture list anyway due to the international break after this weekend.

When games are eventually allowed to resume, there will be the issue of match fitness to consider.

With clubs attempting to keep training grounds as isolated as possible, inviting other clubs for behind-closed-doors friendlies seems unlikely to say the least.

These are uncharted waters for football and will take some negotiating.

For now it is about players ticking over and staying healthy.