‘Biggest game of our season’ says PNE boss Alex Neil

Ben Pearson should be fit to face Burton after recovering from cramp
Ben Pearson should be fit to face Burton after recovering from cramp

It will be with a sense of pride and determination that Alex Neil approaches Preston’s key clash with Burton tomorrow lunchtime.

Two games being played 109 miles apart will determine whether PNE make a last-gasp arrival in the play-offs or bring their season to a close.

Their job is to beat Burton at Deepdale (12.30pm) and then at the same time look for a favour from Barnsley, who face Derby at Pride Park.

If North End win and the Rams lose, Neil’s men will claim sixth place.

Any other scenario and it will be time to hit the beach for the summer.

Were Preston to reach the play-offs, it would be the first time since late October that they had been in the top six.

Neil’s focus is razor sharp on the job in hand at Deepdale rather than elsewhere. Neil said: “We had a batch of three games which we didn’t come out on the right side of.

“That left us with four games to get ourselves into a better position.

“We won three and drew one of those and now we find ourselves in a situation where, apart from the sides inside the top six, we are the only team who can get in.

“We have done remarkably well for that to be the case and I’m proud of the players.

“On Sunday we need to take care of our business.

“We have to approach it as our biggest game this season and we need to win it.

“Regardless of what might be happening elsewhere, we have to win.

“That makes our job and task really simple, we need to win and what happens in the other game happens.”

Burton come to Lancashire knowing that a win would in all likelihood keep them up.

A draw theoretically could make them safe but they would very much be in the hands of others. Barnsley need something at Derby too, – they are ahead of Burton on goal difference.

Said Neil: “I’m sure Burton will come to try and quieten the crowd to start with, make it difficult.

“We will both be trying to counteract each other.

“Our approach will be to play as well as we can and try and take chances when they come along.

“If we do that, as we have shown time and time again this year, we are capable of winning.”

Neil should have a fully fit squad to choose from, the one slight concern earlier in the week being midfielder Ben Pearson.

He suffered cramp in the latter stages of last week’s win at Sheffield United and had to play on, as all three subs had been used.

Said Neil: “The concern was that there might be a bit of residual damage left after he got cramp. It’s something we’ve been monitoring.”