PNE must show different qualities – Neil

Preston midfielder Alan Browne.
Preston midfielder Alan Browne.

Alex Neil says Preston will need to show different sides to their game when they make the trip to Cardiff tonight.

The first test for North End is to make sure they compete well in the physical battle which awaits them in Wales.

But Neil wants his players to also show a calmness on the ball and be brave enough to play through their hosts when the opportunity arises.

In the first half of the 0-0 draw at Barnsley on Boxing Day, Neil felt Preston did the physical side of the game well.

That was missing after the break, with them struggling somewhat as a result.

Neil said: “When we played Nottingham Forest the other day they were a passing side and that lends itself to being a passing-type game.

“When we went to Barnsley they were a tough, hard-working team who cut space down.

“We did the difficult parts of the game very well in the first half.

“But in the second half we didn’t win enough tackles or headers, we didn’t turn the ball enough in terms of getting it up to the forwards and supporting them.

“Those fundamentals you have to do well when you play against teams such as Cardiff, Barnsley and Ipswich.

“At Cardiff we know that we will have to be physical and strong.

“Equally, when we win the tackles and earn the right to play, we have to have a cool head to get the ball down and pass it well.”

Neil will assess the fitness of a number of players before selecting his starting XI.

Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Calum Woods all picked-up injuries in the Barnsley game.

Greg Cunningham could be in line for his first game in more than four months, while Callum Robinson and Tom Clarke will be hoping to be back after injury kept them out at Barnsley.

Neil said: “Calum came off with a deadleg, Gally had a tight calf, while DJ also had a deadleg.

“Callum Robinson we will assess and hopefully he will be better, likewise Tom Clarke.

“We have got a couple of others clinging on, your squad gets stretched at the best of times and the busy Christmas period means you are always going to get injuries.”

Alan Browne could return to the starting XI after being on the bench on Boxing Day.

He was one of the scorers when PNE beat Cardiff 3-0 at Deepdale in September.

“People will remember that game fondly because we scored three goals,” said Neil.

“There were some great performances that night, Alan Browne in particular who scored from just over the half-way line.

“The way things went that night were very pleasing but I do think we played better in a few other games.”