North End boss Neil expects three of a kind

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Alex Neil predicts Preston face three very similar tests over the coming weeks, starting with tomorrow’s London away-day against Fulham.

In terms of approach, PNE boss Neil puts the Cottagers, Wolves and Brentford in the same bracket.

Tom Barkhuizen scored for PNE at Fulham last season

Tom Barkhuizen scored for PNE at Fulham last season

He is looking forward to the test of dealing with that and getting North End to impose their style of play.

Neil told the Post: “Fulham are a very good side in terms of their retention of the ball and movement.

“I would probably argue that they are the best at that in the division.

“I’ve seen Wolves play and they move the ball well too.

“The next three games are going to be relatively similar in terms of styles, although not formation because Wolves play three at the back.

“But Fulham, Wolves and Brentford are teams who want to have possession of the ball and want to try and dictate the game.

“This is going to be a really interesting batch of games and we’re up for the challenge.

“We are ready and I think it should be a good game against Fulham tomorrow.”

Neil hopes to have midfield trio Ben Pearson, John Welsh and Paul Gallagher on board the train when it heads to the capital later today.

Pearson missed all six games in September, while Gallager sat out four of them.

Welsh was absent for the Sunderland clash ahead of the international break.

Darnell Fisher serves a one-game suspension after totting-up five bookings, with Calum Woods likely to step in.

The absence of Pearson in particular has meant a change of tactics for Neil.

Ideally, he wants Preston to play through the middle and have plenty of possession.

“With Ben not having been available for such a long time, we have had to adapt our style slightly and be a little bit more direct,” said Neil.

“Ben is a key player for us in terms of trying to build through central areas.

“We changed initially when I came in to go that way and have since had to come away from it a little bit because of the personnel available.

“Sometimes doing that can hamper results but thankfully it has not done that.”

The trip to Craven Cottage last season saw a first Preston goal for Tom Barkhuizen.

He went on to score six in six games and has gone on to become an integral part of the PNE squad.

This term, Barkhuizen is one of three ever-presents in the league together with skipper Paul Huntington and Chris Maxwell.

Preston will be backed by a big following in the capital tomorrow.

The initial 1,610 allocation has sold out and Fulham have sent them a further 35o tickets which are selling well.