Midweek win offers Preston boss Alex Neil hope for the final four games

PNE skipper Tom Clarke is a likely starter at QPR
PNE skipper Tom Clarke is a likely starter at QPR

Alex Neil believes that a weight has been lifted off Preston’s shoulders by their return to winning ways in midweek.

The Lilywhites beat Leeds 3-1 at Deepdale on Tuesday night, leaving them in good spirits for the visit to Queens Park Rangers tomorrow.

Three defeats on the bounce prior to that had seen the mood dip and lengthened the odds of them making the play-offs.

The victory over Leeds has provided a chink of light in the top-six chase.

Realistically, North End need to win their remaining four games to get in.

Preston manager Neil said: “After beating Leeds I sensed the frustration lifting off the shoulders of everyone.

“I understand that when the team wins everyone feels better, regardless of whether you play well or not. If you don’t win, it doesn’t mean the same.

“For us as a staff and a team, we have to look too at how we perform, not just the result.

“I believe that if we churn out good performances on a regular basis, that will amount to more points.

“Our performance level has been good but in recent weeks that hadn’t brought the results we deserved.”

Neil hopes that the reverse fixtures of the remaining four games can be a good pointer to how the season will pan out.

PNE took 10 points from the matches against QPR, Norwich, Sheffield United and Burton in the winter.

“We want to win every game, that has always been our approach,” said Neil.

“If you look at the reverse fixtures of the ones coming up, we won three and drew one.

“Anything near that record would be great for us.

“If we did that, we might not be too far away.

“Most of the teams above us have to play one another. This weekend’s card is a really interesting one.

“If we win and a couple of the teams drop points, we can be within two or three points of it – anything can happen.”

Neil looks likely to turn to skipper Tom Clarke again in the QPR clash.

Clarke stood in for Darnell Fisher at right-back against Leeds, a hamstring problem having ruled out Fisher.

Said Neil: “Tom gave us a good performance and it shows how well we have been doing when he has had to be patient to get back in.

“We didn’t want to risk Darnell because Tuesday night was the fourth game of a quick sequence.”

A hamstring niggle which Sean Maguire picked up late in the Leeds game, will need assessing ahead of tomorrow.

Neil said: “You need to be cautious with hamstrings.

“Sean is a good assessor of his own pain, what he can do and what he can’t do.

“Sometimes it is just cramp due to a bit of fatigue.”