Experience could be difference in play-off race says Preston boss Alex Neil

Alex Neil admits that Preston’s inexperience could be behind their drop in form which has halted their play-off push.

The Lilywhites are down to 11th place following their 1-0 defeat to Reading, with the gap to sixth place now six points.

Preston North End's Billy Bodin is fouled by Reading's Omar Richards

Preston North End's Billy Bodin is fouled by Reading's Omar Richards

They have five games left, with Leeds United visiting Deepdale tomorrow night.

Against Reading, PNE fell behind to a 12th minute goal and were unable to pull it back despite having a lot of the ball.

Louis Moult hit the post with a free-kick and a header from Sean Maguire bounced off the bar.

North End manager Neil admitted recent results were frustrating because everyone, including himself, wants to be successful sooner rather than later.

Neil said: “These lads are the best team I have worked with bar none, in terms of what they give you, how much they dedicate to the club and how hard they try for each other.

“That is why I get annoyed, although I shouldn’t, when anything is said that is to their detriment.

“You have to remember this is Josh Harrop’s first year at this level, Tom Barkhuizen only joined in January last year, this is the first year at this level for Billy Bodin, Louis Moult and Sean Maguire.

“We are going in with a lot of inexperience at the level we are at, we are asking these guys to make a difference week in, week out.

“We all want to get better and improve and we all want it right now.

“Sometimes you just need a bit of time.

“I went to watch Aston Villa play Reading last week in my preparation for Saturday.

“Villa’s experience really counted in terms of when to deliver the ball – the detail you put on it.

“We are still learning that and maybe that has shown in some of the games.

“We still created chances at Reading, we hit the woodwork twice, Billy Bodin had a couple of chances and Alan Browne should have headed one which came his way.

“But we conceded one goal from two chances Reading had on target.”

Neil was pleased with what Bodin produced on his return to the starting XI.

“We made his game really simple, I said ‘Bill, you stay on the flank and we will get the ball out to you’, we did that very well,” said Neil.

“It worked well but it didn’t get us the goal we needed.

“We are a work in progress but everyone, myself included, wants it right now.

“We are fighting to get into the Premier League with some boys playing at this level for the first time.

“I’m as critical as everyone else is but maybe instead of being critical we have to give them a pat on the back too for where they have got to.”