Alex Neil admits stretched Preston North End squad are just trying to make best of injury crisis over Christmas period

Tom Barkhuizen rues a missed opportunity against Hull
Tom Barkhuizen rues a missed opportunity against Hull
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Alex Neil admitted he is simply trying to make the best of Preston North End’s injury crisis after seeing his side slip to back-to-back Championship defeats.

The stretched Lilywhites went down 2-1 at home to Hull City on Boxing Day and sit 17th in the table.

Jackson Irvine’s double did the trick for the visitors with PNE unable to build on Alan Browne’s sweetly struck equaliser.

Louis Moult’s hamstring injury meant Lukas Nmecha led a threadbare frontline with Graham Burke also in for his first Championship start since September 1.

Connor Simpson, recalled from his loan spell in the Northern Premier League with Hyde, joined another teenager Ethan Walker on the bench.

“At the moment we’ve got Lukas, who is a young lad, Tom Barkhuizen and then after that we’re really struggling up top,” said Neil.

“I put Graham Burke in today and unfortunately for him I had to take him off at half-time because how we were playing wasn’t working.

“I thought the tactical change impacted the game but after that you look around and they’ve got Chris Martin and Nouha Dicko to come on and we’ve got Connor Simpson and Ethan Walker.

“That’s no disrespect to them because they are good lads who are good players who will get even better but when a game is so tight at this level it’s difficult to put kids in and rely on them to do a job.

“I’d like to bring them in in better circumstances than we find ourselves in just now.”

Instead,with Nmecha toiling in the final third, the final change made by Neil after Irvine’s scrappy goal 10 minutes from time was to bring Darnell Fisher on in place of Tom Clarke at right back.

“Lukas is the most experienced of all the young lads and he had a tough afternoon.” said the PNE boss.

“It’s a tough gig up there on your own. “He’s got the tools but knowing when to do things is what experience gives you.

“I could have put another young kid up front but I didn’t think it was going to work.

“We got plenty of warning signs down Hull’s left-hand side and I wanted to try and take them the other way.

“Darnell probably put four or five crosses in when he came on.”

Neil had earlier been rocked by another injury with Ben Davies limping off 10 minutes before half-time with a hamstring problem. Jordan Storey impressed off the bench however, as did Ryan Ledson in the second half.

“I don’t think it’s going to be long term for Ben but it’s going to be another one we’re going to have to contend with for these next two or three games,” said Neil.