PNE boss expecting biggest test so far

Calum Woods is a possible replacement for the suspended Darnell Fisher at Fulham
Calum Woods is a possible replacement for the suspended Darnell Fisher at Fulham
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Alex Neil thinks Fulham will provide his Preston side with their ‘biggest challenge of the season yet’ this weekend.

While the Cottagers sit three points and four places behind PNE, Neil likes the way Saturday’s hosts play.

That said, he is confident North End can build on what they have done in the first two months of the campaign.

Neil’s men head to London eight games unbeaten and having won their last two away matches.

They will be backed by a good-sized following, with ticket sales nearing the 1,500 mark.

North End manager Neil said: “I think this will be our biggest challenge so far of the season.

“Tactically they are really difficult to play against.

“Fulham move the ball as well as anyone in this division. But if we go there and get it tactically right and the lads perform, there is no reason why we can’t win the game.”

Neil felt the international break came at the right time for Preston.

Although they had a good September with three wins and three draws, he wanted the fortnight’s gap in action to work with the squad on the training ground and to give them a few rest days.

A big part of Neil’s work with the squad since he took over has involved mind-set and belief in themselves.

Said Neil: “This squad are a determined bunch.

“They believe and have an expectation as much as you 
allow them.

“If you tell them they can beat anyone in this league and results are beginning to back up performances, they believe that.

“That is a mentality that you want to drive through to the players – it is the only way to move things on.

“Just competing and being happy where you are means you will only achieve that, as you don’t believe you can do any better.

“From day one when I came in, I wanted them believing how good they were.

“Having been with another team at this level and being successful, I know what it takes to achieve what you are looking for.

“When I first looked at the squad I thought we could achieve something this year.”

One selection issue for Neil at Fulham will be who plays at right-back.

Darnell Fisher is serving a one-game suspension after collecting his fifth yellow card against Sunderland.

Calum Woods would seem to be the likely replacement, having played at Birmingham last month when Fisher had an injury.

Another option is Marnick Vermijl who has found game-time limited this season.

The Belgian’s only start came in the League Cup against Accrington.