After away triumphs Preston North End boss Alex Neil looks for home comforts against Derby

Preston manager Alex Neil at Stoke last weekend (photo: Getty Images)
Preston manager Alex Neil at Stoke last weekend (photo: Getty Images)

Alex Neil will be looking for Preston to carry the feelgood factor of back-to-back away wins into tonight’s Deepdale clash with Derby County.

Six points picked up on the road at Queens Park Rangers and Stoke have strengthened the Lilywhites’ hand in the Championship.

They have pulled 12 points clear of the bottom three and are 10 behind this evening’s visitors who sit sixth.

North End manager Neil said: “Confidence is a major thing in sport.

“When you are winning you can look down the fixture list and think, ‘We’ll beat them, we’ll win that one’.

“But when you are not winning you worry where you’re next point is coming from.

“It is amazing how quickly the mentality can shift.

“What you need is to build momentum. You can see the lads are confident at the 
moment.

“We’ve got that confidence from good performances of late and getting a chunk of players back.

“The spine of the team has come back lately – Ben Davies, Ben Pearson, Sean Maguire.

“They are at the heart of things here.

“My confidence in the team has never really wavered, I know how they work and what they are capable of.

“We don’t hit the heights all the time and where we need to get to is a level of consistency which gets you results week in, week out.

“For the rest of the season we have to be – touch wood – a little bit more fortunate with injuries.”

Neil will have most of his squad to choose from, Tom Clarke having returned to training after a calf strain.

But he is unlikely to stray far from the side which won the last two games.

On the trading front, last night’s transfer deadline passed without any drama at Deepdale.

Graham Burke’s exit on loan to Gillingham was the one piece of business done on deadline day.

The Irishman will spend the rest of the season with the Kent outfit, having dropped out of the first-team picture since the injury crisis eased.

Burke was the sixth player to go out on loan in January in order to get games.

In addition, Calum Woods left permanently last week to join Bradford.

One player who did not leave was Kevin O’Connor.

A move to Ireland has been rumoured and the transfer window there is open until February 22.

On the incoming front, North End got their business done early and did not see the need to do a trolley dash in the final hours of the window.

Four of their new arrivals came in before January 9, with the fifth – Joe Rafferty’s move from Rochdale – completed last week.