Deepdale boss Neil accepts change in style takes time

Paul Gallagher is key to the way North End play
Paul Gallagher is key to the way North End play

Alex Neil is of the view that Preston are a work in progress in terms of a transition from being a counter-attacking team to one which plays on the front foot.

The PNE manager is keen for his squad still to have the ability to counter-attack in their locker but wants them to be able to take the game to an opposition who are content to sit behind the ball.

Neil was pleased how the Lilywhites finally breached QPR’s stubborn resistance in last week’s win at Deepdale.

They played through the visitors, Paul Gallagher’s pass sending Jordan Hugill away to score in the 88th minute.

“It is difficult to change an approach quickly,” said Neil.

“The loss of Sean Maguire certainly hasn’t helped as he was a big part of what we were trying to do.

“We’ve had to slightly adapt in certain games and what we want to do is add another string to the players’ bows.

“Last Saturday was a big step towards doing that.

“Breaking down teams is something we have found quite difficult.

“So we were very thankful that we managed to do that against a well-organised QPR side.

“When I was at Norwich, things were the other way around to a large degree.

“Our forte was breaking teams down because a lot of teams came to sit deep behind the ball.

“But equally, we probably weren’t as effective at playing on the counter-attack.

“This Preston team is very good at counter-attacking but we need to add that extra bit in terms of breaking teams down and opening them up when they are being a bit stubborn.”

Neil is open to North End mixing and matching styles, doing what is required to win a game.

He accepts that being more adept at breaking teams down will take time.

Said Neil: “There was never going to be an instant change.

“We don’t want players to come away totally from what they were doing previously but we want to add something to their game.

“Earlier in the season we found it difficult breaking down Barnsley and Millwall at home when the onus was on us to beat them.”

At the moment, Gallagher is one of the keys to getting North End on the front foot.

The 33-year-old has started the last four games to play his way firmly into Neil’s plans.

Neil said: “I didn’t see the best of Gally for the first two months because of knocks, 
injuries and him being ill.

“However, all credit to him for the way he has played since getting his opportunity. He has kept his place and 
deservedly so.

“Gally is one of our best passers of the ball that we have got and getting him on the ball in that sitting role helps us.”