Alex Neil challenges Preston North End to kick on again at Stoke City
Preston hit the road for the second weekend running with Alex Neil hoping his side can pick up at Stoke where they left off against QPR.
The Lilywhites head to the bet365 Stadium for the first time in 11 years looking to build on the mini boost of form they have had of late.
Last Saturday’s 4-1 victory over QPR came on the back of a 1-1 draw with Swansea.
Having started 2019 with two defeats, it has not been a bad recovery.
Tomorrow’s clash in the Potteries is set to be a big one for Paul Gallagher, who signed a new contract yesterday.
If selected against Stoke, a club he had two loan spells with earlier in his career, it will be the midfielder’s 250th appearance for North End.
Neil said: “I thought our win at QPR was a big moment.
“The weekend previous to that we drew with Swansea which I didn’t think was a bad result, particularly because we had two debutants.
“Then you had Ben Pearson coming back and looking a bit rusty, Sean Maguire getting a few minutes under his belt.
“To get that point from the Swansea game was good but other results went against us.
“So we knew the QPR game was key and the lads put in a great performance.
“That allowed us to open up a bit of a gap.”
Neil had his best hand in quite a while at QPR in terms of selection.
He is likely to be able to add striker Louis Moult to the squad tomorrow and perhaps Tom Clarke.
Moult has recovered from a hamstring strain and has been back in training, while Clarke has been nursing a calf strain.
New signing Joe Rafferty will be in the squad, while Josh Earl is available after serving a one-game suspension.
While delighted to get the numbers up, Neil still has a sense of frustration about the injury pile-up North End had to contend with.
Said Neil: “We’ve got a good chunk of the lads back, we’ve got 18 games left and we hope to finish strongly.
“I’m similar to the fans in the fact I want success and I want it now – I don’t want to have to wait three weeks or three months or until next season. That is the frustrating bit, especially knowing what we had got in the squad but was not available to us.
“We coped reasonably well with what was thrown at us but obviously it has not been a perfect season by any means.”
Gallagher’s new contract is a one-year extension to the deal he signed last summer.
It keeps him at Deepdale until June 2020.
Said Gallagher: “When I signed in the summer it was discussed that if I was playing and having an influence, we would sit down again.
“The club have always been good to me and have stuck by their word.”