Forget the play-offs – Alex Neil tells Preston North End to concentrate on winning
Alex Neil wants the Preston squad to blank out talk about the play-off and focus only on getting back to winning ways.
The Lilywhites travel to Huddersfield Town tomorrow (3pm) without a victory in six games – three either side of the lockdown.
They have tumbled out of the play-off places and fallen behind Cardiff, Derby and Swansea in the chase for sixth.
With minds perhaps too occupied on the wider target, PNE manager Neil wants to narrow the focus.
He knows the slide in form is similar to the scenario of the last two seasons and hopes the change of focus can reverse the trend before it is too late.
Neil said: “We have to take our attention off the bigger picture and really go back to simple basics which is winning the next game.
“In my time here we have been in touching distance of the play-offs each season.
“For whatever reason when it gets to this period, call it a pressure period, we have not responded well.
“In my first year here we finished seventh. We won five of the last six I think but leading into it – probably about this stage of the season – we didn’t get results.
“When the pressure came off us we went on a good run to the end of the season.
“Last season we were a goal away from being in the play-off places at one stage.
“Then we won one in eight and didn’t finish well.
“What we have to do is strip it all back, don’t even think about the play-offs, try and win the next game and see where that takes us.
“The last three seasons have been very similar, I’m looking at it in the same way you guys are looking at it.”
Neil is ready to make changes for the Huddersfield game. One of the changes will be forced on him after Paul Huntington was hit by a three-match suspension.
Footage of him standing on Derby striker Louie Sibley was reviewed by the FA disciplinary panel and deemed as violent conduct, leading to a retrospective ban.
Neil did not think there was any malice on Huntington’s part, with the centre-half looking at the referee rather than Sibley when it happened.
However, he accepts how the FA viewed it and will not have Huntington available until the visit to Brentford.
Huntington had been back in the side for the first time since the turn of the year.
Said Neil: “The two centre-backs (Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies) have served us well and been the bedrock of where we have found ourselves.
“But since we came back we have given away a few cheap goals which have cost us games.
“Hunts has always been a good, steady influence and we needed that calmness and experience.”