Neil anticipates tough test from in-form Trotters

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Alex Neil will be looking for his Preston side to halt Bolton’s recent revival and to begin stage one of their own.

The Trotters are unbeaten in five games, a massive upturn in form after they had lost their previous eight.

Sammy Ameobi has scored three goals for Bolton in the last five games

Sammy Ameobi has scored three goals for Bolton in the last five games

With North End having lost four on the bounce and being winless in six, they could do with following Bolton’s lead.

Lilywhites manager Neil said: “Bolton have picked up definitely.

“I went to see them earlier in the season and they have made a lot of changes in terms of personnel.

“They had injuries at the start of the season but have started to get people back.

“With most teams in this division if you are missing key individuals, results suffer.

“Bolton tried to play three at the back at the start of the season to get around people being missing, but it didn’t really work for them.

“Lo and behold, they have got players back and are now starting to pick points up.

“They’ve been effective of late, unbeaten in five, having lost six or seven in a row.

“It just shows how a shift can happen in this league. We have gone from losing one in 12 to having lost our last four.

“It is going to be a tough match. Bolton will come here more optimistic than they might have done earlier in the season and think they can get something.

“We have to make sure that is not the case.”

Neil expects Wanderers to be fairly direct tonight, with Gary Madine a big part of how they operate.

Madine leads the forward line in a 4-2-3-1, with Sammy Ameobi, Josh Vela and Adam Armstrong behind.

“Don’t get me wrong, we can’t disrespect Bolton in any way because they have got good, effective players, but in terms of how they play they are quite basic,” said Neil.

“They put the ball up to Gary Madine and then go and support it.

“Then they have guys at the top end of the pitch who can hurt you, while they try to keep it solid at the back.”

Madine is Bolton’s leading scorer with four goals, with Ameobi having scored three.

For Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson, Deepdale was a ground he visited often as a youngster.

Born in Chorley, he lived down south for much of his youth but trips back up here often saw him take in a PNE match. Parkinson said: “My mum and dad used to take me to see Preston when I’d go and visit my grandparents.

“We lived down south for a lot of the time but when Bobby Charlton was manager my dad used to drag me to go and watch them,

“So I did watch Preston regularly when I was a youngster.”

Looking ahead to tonight’s contest, Parkinson said: “Preston have had a good season to date, maybe struggled the last few weeks, but they’re a decent side.

“We’re in a rich vein of form ourselves.

“We go there in a confident frame of mind but also with the understanding we’ll have to be at our very best to get a result.”