Milestone 5,000th league game has even greater significance for Preston North End says Alex Neil

Preston North End manager Alex Neil says the play-off race is entering into an ‘unforgiving’ period where so much can hinge on a result.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 8:00 am

The Lilywhites play their milestone 5,000th league game later this afternoon when Derby County visit Deepdale (5pm).

Historically it will be a proud moment for North End with them becoming the first club to reach that marker in the English game.

In the context of their push for the top six, the contest is of huge significance.

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Ben Pearson (left) could be tasked with marking Wayne Rooney in PNE’s clash with Derby today

Having been overtaken by Cardiff at the weekend, they will be wanting to keep their noses in front of Derby.

The Rams have pulled level with PNE, goal difference marginal between the pair.

Neil said: “Every team is only a win away from kicking on. We’ve felt disappointed after the last two games because it didn’t feel like we had done a massive amount wrong.

“But we are now at a stage where it is unforgiving.

“If you don’t pick up the points now you can find yourselves out of the running really quickly.

“Dropping out of the top six doesn’t change our mentality.

“The mentality was always to go out and win the game.

“You can look at it from a pressure and expectation point of view, and maybe that has shifted a little bit.

“Is there less pressure when you are chasing rather than the team being chased?

“If you gave me the option I would rather be the team in there being chased, rather than the ones doing the chasing.

“We need someone above us to drop points as well as us picking up results.”

Neil acknowledges the threat which will come from Wayne Rooney, the former England skipper having played his part in helping Derby climb the table and into play-off contention.

“You have to give Wayne the respect he deserves for what he has done,” said Neil.

“Not all players are equal, that is pretty clear to see .

“We will always pay particular attention to the guys who could hurt us the most.”

With Rooney playing a midfield role, it could well be that Ben Pearson will be given the task of trying to stifle him.

That has the potential to be an intriguing watch.

Neil said: “The fact we are above Derby at the moment is incredible when you think they’ve got Wayne Rooney picking up whatever he is on.

“You’ve got Martyn Waghorn who was £7m, Tom Lawrence who was £8m and Chris Martin who was similar.

“If you spend that kind of cash you would certainly be looking to be high up there.”