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PNE boss has kept busy doing big-match homework

Preston boss Alex Neil hopes that having ‘square eyes’ in the build-up to Fulham’s visit to Deepdale tomorrow will be worth it in the end.

Neil has spent plenty of time watching DVDs of the London outfit, a side he rates very highly.

PNE stand-in skipper Greg Cunningham has been named in the Republic of Ireland squad

PNE stand-in skipper Greg Cunningham has been named in the Republic of Ireland squad

It is a contest which pits two in-form teams together, a clash of eighth and fourth.

North End have designs on a play-off slot while Fulham will fancy their chances of challenging for an automatic promotion slot.

Neil said: “These are the games you want to be involved in as a player and a manager.

“Playing a Fulham team who are on form with people talking about how good they are, it is an opportunity for us to show what we are capable of doing.

“Tactically, it is an exciting game for me to work towards. I like to face teams like this 
because you really do have to pay a lot of attention and put a lot of thought into it.

“Fulham move the ball so well that you have to make sure you are well prepared.

“My eyes will be square soon with all the analysis I’ve been doing of them.”

Neil reasons that Preston and Fulham have contrasting approaches, which led to an exciting game when they met at Craven Cottage in October.

That finished in a 2-2 draw, PNE having led 2-0.

“Arguably Fulham are one of the best teams in the league with the ball and I think we are one of the best without the ball,” said Neil.

“That’s not to say they are not good without the ball and we are not good with it.

“Our biggest strength is how we set up, how we hunt it, how we harass teams and get after them.

“We force teams to make mistakes then punish them on the back of that.

“Fulham do the opposite of that, they keep the ball, they rotate it, make the pitch big and break teams down.

“The game at their place was a tale of two halves.

“We harassed them and caused them untold problems in the first half – we should have been out of sight.

“In the second half they had a change of shape.

“Fulham are better equipped now than they were then and I think we are more adept at what we do now.

“We have got to the stage where what we do, we do it very well.”

Neil will have to weigh up whether Sean Maguire is in a position to start after his two scoring appearances from the bench the last few days.

The striker was yesterday one of four Preston players named in a 30-man Republic of Ireland squad for a friendly against Turkey on March 23.

Greg Cunningham, Alan Browne and Daryl Horgan got a call-up too for the clash in Antalya,the squad being a provisional one at this stage.