Alex Neil challenges his Preston North End players to get themselves in Championship play-off race

Brad Potts battle with Scott Malone during Preston's 0-0 draw with Derby
Brad Potts battle with Scott Malone during Preston's 0-0 draw with Derby

Alex Neil has challenged his Preston North End side to make a run at the play-offs in the second half of the season.

The Lilywhites made it four unbeaten with a 0-0 draw against promotion-chasing Derby County at Deepdale on Friday night.

Alex Neil urges on his side at Deepdale on Friday night

Alex Neil urges on his side at Deepdale on Friday night

Frank Lampard’s men hit the woodwork twice through Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson but it was the hosts who had more of the play in front of the Sky Sports cameras, Paul Gallagher coming the closest to finding the all-important goal.

Another point on the board leaves PNE 16th in the Championship and 10 points shy of the top six with the Rams occupying the final play-off place.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t win because I thought the performance thoroughly deserved it,” said Neil, whose side were bottom at one point back in October after a poor start to the season.

“I would probably argue we played better here than we did in the last two games and I think we were great in the last two games as well.

“With what we’ve got now in terms of the squad I would fully expect us to end the season strongly.

“I said to the players after the game I’m certainly not writing off the play-offs.

“When I went in to Norwich in the middle of January we were quite a long way off and to be honest we were quite unfortunate we didn’t go up automatically.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do but I’m focused on trying to close the gap.”

On the back of two away wins, confidence was sky high heading into the game against one of the sides tipped to be at the sharp end of the promotion race in May.

But it was PNE who left Deepdale with a feeling of what might have been as they continued their recent upturn in fortunes.

“I’ll be honest, I thought we were going to beat them,” said Neil.

“I thought we were going to beat them before the game, I thought we were going to beat them at half-time and I thought we were going to beat them after the game!

“We’re confident in what we’ve got.

“We know we’ve got a good team.”

Now the challenge is to continue looking up with Neil striving for even more, a trip to struggling Bolton Wanderers next on the agenda on February 9.

“It’s up to players to maintain these levels regularly and not get too carried away with themselves,” the PNE boss said.

“We’re playing well and we’re happy but we’ve still got work to do.

“I want to win more games and move up the league and the lads are the exact same.”