PNE boss Alex Neil rues missed chances to get into top six

Alex Neil admits to a sense of frustration that Preston have missed opportunities to get into the top six.

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Paul Huntington is hoping to recover from injury in time to face Sheffield United this weekend

Paul Huntington is hoping to recover from injury in time to face Sheffield United this weekend

North End are four points shy of the play-offs going into their penultimate game of the season at Sheffield United on Saturday.

Derby’s 3-1 win over Cardiff on Tuesday night dealt PNE’s hopes a further blow.

Even if they were to win their last two matches against the Blades and Burton, Neil’s men would need other results to go in their favour in order to extend the campaign.

Preston manager Neil is solely focused on the visit to Bramall Lane and has not given up the ghost on the play-offs.

But he knows that some dropped points have proved so costly.

Neil said: “With how the results have gone, we need to win at Sheffield United and if things go the way we would like, it takes it into the last match.

“Having looked back at the season, I think we have had great opportunities to force the issue and at times we haven’t taken those chances.

“That is the overriding emotion which myself, the squad and the club have got.

“We have had a good chance to get there and certainly up to this point we haven’t taken the opportunities as much as we could have and should have.”

Although pleased with the progress his side have made this season, Neil wants more and will not put himself into the ‘satisfied’ category if Preston finish outside the top six.

He believes there is more to come from the squad as they gain experience.

Said Neil: “I think we are going to get better because we have a lot of young players.

“They have improved as the season has worn on, although a lot of them at the moment are showing the effects of a long hard season. They have done really well for us, they really have played well.

“It is like anything else, the closer you get to something the more you want it.

“To say we are satisfied with what we have done so far, wouldn’t be right.

“On our day when we play well, I think we are capable of achieving the play-offs.

“It is still there so we’ll see where we go.

“What this team has shown is that it has huge potential and it is my job to nurture that, improve it and make us better.”

On the fitness front, Neil had some promising news on centre-back pair Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington ahead of the Sheffield United clash.

Both picked up hamstring injuries in last week’s 0-0 draw with Norwich at Deepdale.

Said Neil: “Tom and Hunts are nowhere near as bad as we probably expected.

“That is pleasing and they should be out training on the grass as the week goes on.”