Alex Neil says Paul Gallagher’s know-how is crucial for Preston North End

Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher celebrates scoring against Huddersfield
Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher celebrates scoring against Huddersfield

Preston manager Alex Neil has paid tribute to the ‘exceptional tactical understanding’ which midfielder Paul Gallagher has.

Gallagher was a key figure in the Lilywhites’ victory over Huddersfield last week, their third win on the bounce.

With Daniel Johnson and Ben Pearson missing from the engine room, Gallagher took extra responsibility on his shoulders.

North End’s opening goal came when his free-kick came back off the post and Jayden Stockley headed it in.

Gallagher was to score the third goal from the penalty spot, the 35-year-old’s fourth goal of the campaign.

Neil said: “Gally is a quality player, you give him the ball and things will happen.

“His tactical understanding as a player is exceptional.

“Anything we look to try and do in a game, Gally will try and distribute that message on the pitch to players who might not have grasped it as much as he does.

“To have that leadership in the squad is invaluable.

“Gally is the only player I have worked with where, if we get a free-kick, I automatically think we are going to score.

“His penalties too, I have no reservations about them. He is very influential and it’s good to have that.

“When we were without Ben and DJ from the middle area last weekend, we needed others to stand up and do that bit more.

“Gally took on that role and we got our rewards.”

It was noted that North End dipped off the pace somewhat after Gallagher was subbed in the 72nd minute.

Having taken a knock a few minutes earlier, Neil felt it was time anyway to get fresh legs on in the midfield.

Said Neil: “What happened during the second half was that Huddersfield dropped two midfielders out wide to build. That meant Gally had to go searching for them.

“In the first half, they’d only had one of them doing that and the other one was playing right up against him.

“With them playing that way to start with, Gally didn’t have to go searching – one was stood right next to him.

“When they dropped out wider, that made the pitch bigger and created more spaces.

“That had happened before Gally was subbed, him coming off just emphasised that.”

Pearson will be back from suspension for North End’s next game against Derby at Pride Park a week on Saturday.

It is hoped there can be a return for Johnson too, with his absence last week due to a trapped nerve in his right foot.

Tickets are selling well for the Derby clash, with more than 1,200 of the initial batch of 1,492 sold. A further allocation will be available.

They are priced £30 for adults, £20 for seniors (65 and over), £16 for Under-18s and £10 for Under-13s.