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PNE boss Alex Neil happy with balance between graft and guile

Alex Neil believes his Preston side are striking a good balance between the physical and footballing sides of the game.

North End saw Greg Cunningham sent off in the 1-1 draw at Brentford on Saturday as they picked up their third red card in the Championship this season.

Paul Gallagher had to show both sides of his game in the draw at Brentford on Saturday

Paul Gallagher had to show both sides of his game in the draw at Brentford on Saturday

Neil felt both of the left back’s bookings were “soft” as the Lilywhites got on the wrong side of referee Simon Hooper after trying to stop the free-flowing Bees in their tracks from the off at Griffin Park.

The PNE boss believes his side are finding a happy medium, however, between putting their foot in and playing 
free-flowing football.

A more fluid frontline has been in operation since Jordan Hugill’s departure to West Ham, with Callum Robinson leading the line as PNE have picked up seven points in three games against Nottingham Forest, Hull and Brentford.

“We speak about what we do with the ball and what we do without the ball,” said Neil, whose seventh-in-the-table side next host leaders Wolves at Deepdale on Saturday.

“We have got some really good football players.

“You look at Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson, Billy Bodin receiving the ball – technically they are excellent.

“What we have got too is the other side of it where we work really hard.

“We are really aggressive in our first press and get stuck in. That is a good combination to have.”

Despite Ben Pearson serving the first match of his two-game ban, PNE certainly put themselves about as they looked to disrupt the hosts’ passing play.

Daniel Johnson came into the side in his place, with Alan Browne dropping into a deeper midfield position in front of the back four.

Having played off the front for large parts of the season, the Irishman showed his customary industry in a different role.

John Welsh was another candidate to fill in for Pearson but Neil opted for Browne’s 
energy.

“Alan was always going to play,” said Neil.

“The only decision I had was dealing with how mobile they are in the middle of the pitch so I went for some 
fresher legs.

“I was conscious of the fact that DJ has been struggling to tackle for me, so I stuck him further forward and said to Alan Browne, ‘Make sure you put some tackles in’, which he did.”

Tickets for PNE’s Gentry Day trip to Bolton on March 3, went on sale yesterday.

After controversy over the initial £35 price for adults, the initial allocation of around 2,500 is available for adults, priced £30, seniors and under 23s £24, under 18s £12 and under 12s £10.