Boss Alex Neil on challenge Preston face against Cardiff

Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge
Cardiff City goalkeeper Neil Etheridge

Alex Neil has warned Preston that they will have a battle on their hands against Cardiff City tonight.

The Lilywhites manager is acutely aware that the Welsh outfit will not give an inch on their home patch.

It is that intensity and hard work which North End will have to match in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Neil said: “Cardiff play the same way regardless of how they are doing, Neil Warnock has his sides playing the same way home or away.

“They want to lock on to you, follow you around the pitch, go man for man.

“It is about individual duals and battles, you have to make sure that you win them.

“When we get the ball it is about making the pitch big and being expansive.

“It becomes difficult for them to go man for man when there is a lot of space on the pitch for them to cover.

“When Cardiff have the ball, they will go very direct and hurry you.

“They go for second balls, get the ball out wide and then put it into the box.

“Their two wide players, Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, are real sources of danger for them.

“They are players who we will have to keep quiet if we are to do well.”

Cardiff are in third place as they prepare to do battle with North End.

Back-to-back defeats to Bolton and Fulham have seen them slip out of the automatic promotion slots.

However, Bluebirds boss Warnock is delighted with how his side have done so far this season.

Warnock said: “I don’t think anybody expected us to be in the position we are; we’ve exceeded expectations and we’re enjoying being where we are.

“I thought we were unlucky at Bolton with the penalty decision having dominated the game and then Fulham were just a bit better than us the other day.

“Overall though I’m ever so proud of what the lads have achieved already this season.”

PNE beat Cardiff 3-0 in the reverse fixture at Deepdale in September, Josh Harrop, Sean Maguire and Alan Browne on target with the goals.

Browne scored with a shot from 45 yards, capitalising on a poor clearance from keeper Neil Etheridge to send a shot back over him.

Recalling that night and looking ahead to North End’s visit, Warnock said: “Preston were very physical up there, so we know what to expect.

“We’ll have to be on our toes and start the game well.

“A few decisions went against us on a cold night up in Lancashire, but that happens.

“Preston are probably the form team in the division at the moment and we’re probably towards the bottom on the back of a couple of defeats, so it’ll be an interesting game.

“ They will be full of confidence and we’ll have to be prepared for that.

“We may have to try one or two things over the next couple of games with the injuries that we have but that’s what the Championship is all about.

“It should be a good game to take part in.”

Meet the City manager

The evergreen 69-year-old is in charge of Cardiff, having been appointed by the South Wales outfit 15 months ago. They are the 15th club Warnock has managed in a long career stretching back to 1980. He led Scarborough, Notts County (twice), Huddersfield, Plymouth, Sheffield United and Queens Park Rangers to promotion.

More recently, Warnock has managed Leeds, Crystal Palace and Rotherham. He has turned Cardiff’s fortunes around, with them having been in the top six all season.

The man in the middle

James Linnington

The Isle of Wight referee takes charge of his second Preston game of the season when they head to Cardiff. Mr Linnington was in the middle for North End’s 2-1 win at Hull City in September. Last season, he took charge of PNE twice – the 0-0 draw with Wolves at Deepdale and the 1-1 draw at Derby. This will be Mr Linngton’s 25th assignment of the season – the majority in the Championship – with him having shown 78 yellow cards and five red.