Neil has trust that PNE will make top six

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Preston’s squad have the trust of Alex Neil to maintain their play-off push in the remaining nine games of the season.

The first of those comes at Sunderland tomorrow, with North End boss Neil looking for a quick response to last week’s defeat to Fulham.

PNE forward Billy Bodin has been named in the Wales squad

PNE forward Billy Bodin has been named in the Wales squad

They head to the Stadium of Light in ninth place, four points behind Middlesbrough in sixth position and five shy of fifth-placed Derby.

Neil said: “We have shown that when we’ve had a bit of a setback or a poor display, the response has always been straight back on it.

“We have always played particularly well the following game or got the three points.

“I hope the lads perform as well as they can and there is certainly a trust that I have in them and hopefully they have that in me, in terms of the way they have been prepared.

“We now go into every game confident we perform well and in most cases we do that.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the players have got better as the season has gone along.

“I would say our brand of football in recent weeks has been excellent.

“We picked Bolton apart really well and played very well against Fulham even if we didn’t get the result.

“The games against Aston Villa, Brentford and Wolves were excellent.

“Take the Ipswich game out of the equation and in the last seven matches our standard of football has been excellent.

“Both individually and collectively we have come on leaps and bounds since the start of the season.”

Greg Cunningham is Neil’s main injury concern for the trip to Wearside.

The left-back injured his hamstring against Fulham and had to come off during 
the interval. In terms of 
closing the gap on the top six, Neil says it is like a game of 
‘cat and mouse’.

“Everything can shift in one game,” said Neil.

“If the teams competing next to us lose and we win, it goes down to one or two points which is absolutely nothing.

“If we lose and they win, it goes up to seven points or whatever the case might be and then it starts to look more difficult.

“Then you can win the next game and it goes back to how it was.

“It is a bit of cat and mouse between now and the end of the season.

“We have to make sure that gap between us and the teams above doesn’t get much bigger and that we can stay within touching distance.”

Meanwhile, Billy Bodin and Chris Maxwell have been named in the Wales squad for two games in China during the international break.

It is Bodin’s first inclusion at senior level, having been capped for the Under-21s.