Paul Gallagher is still an important member of Preston squad

Alex Neil is pleased to still be able to turn to the experience of Paul Gallagher in Preston North End’s midfield.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 20th March 2021, 8:58 am

Neil recalled Gallagher to the starting XI for the midweek trip to Middlesbrough.

It was the 36-year-old’s first start since late December but he had come on as a substitute in three games in the meantime.

Gallagher ended-up with the skipper’s armband during the Riverside Stadium clash after Alan Browne’s red card.

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Paul Gallagher

Neil brought him back into the side in a bid to get PNE’s midfield passing to a higher standard of late.

For the time North End had 11 men on the pitch against Boro, it worked having Gallagher in there.

Lilywhites manager Neil said: “When Gally is in the team he gets us playing.

“He is brave on the ball, he has the best understanding and is the most experienced.

“All the other players know and understand that if Gally shows for the ball, they can give it him.

“He’s not played a lot of football this season compared to previous years but he is still a key player. We have tried to move things on in terms of Gally being 36 but he is a player who is difficult to replace here.

“The skills and quality he brings is hard to replace unless you spend a lot of money.”

Gallagher has featured in 14 games this season, 12 of those in the Championship.

He’s started six of those league games, four of them on the spin in December.

Since October, Neil has had Gallagher on the coaching staff, that a natural next step for the midfielder.

Against Boro, Gallagher played next to Browne in the holding midfield positions.

Neil must look for another pairing for today’s meeting with Luton Town as Browne serves the first part of a three-game suspension.

In an ideal world, Ryan Ledson would be back from a calf injury to play.

If he’s not, Neil has a good number of midfielders to choose from but who play in a different way to how Browne and Ledson do.

Ben Whiteman likes the deeper role and creates from there, similar to Gallagher.

Those two might be too similar to play as a pair, with Jayson Molumby another option for the engine room.

Whiteman was on the bench at Middlesbrough, with him having started 13 games in a row since signing from Doncaster in January.

He came on in the second half in place of Ched Evans.

Molumby was a half-time sub, taking over from Scott Sinclair as PNE regrouped after Browne’s dismissal.

The Brighton loanee and Browne are both in the Republic of Ireland squad for their three games during the international break.

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