Alex Neil admits one of the hardest jobs of being a football manager is picking up his players when they have not received their just desserts.
The Preston boss labelled his team’s first-half performance against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday as one of the best he has witnessed during his two-year tenure at Deepdale.
Despite the blow of losing striker Louis Moult, who was stretchered off after suffering a serious knee injury in the 25th minute, North End bossed proceedings
A fine early strike from distance by Joe Rafferty in the 11th minute had handed them the initiative and they created a number of other chances.
Unfortunately, they were unable to add to their goal tally and an equaliser from Borja Baston in first- half injury time meant the home side undeservedly went in at half-time level.
Buoyed by that late strike, the Swans improved after the break and went on to win 3-2 thanks to efforts from George Byers and Baston, who scored either side of Daniel Johnson’s penalty for Preston.
“Saturday was a sore one for me,” said Neil.
“I felt sorry for the players certainly after the first half performance.
“Whenever you’re trying to teach somebody to do something, when they do it well and they get their rewards, it just confirms in their own mind everything that I am telling them.
“But when they do it really well and it’s still a little bit short, then that confidence doesn’t come from what we are doing and telling them. Our performance on Saturday was probably as well as we have done it since I have been here and we didn’t get our just rewards.”
On the whole, Neil has been generally pleased with his team’s performances so far this season.
After losing narrowly 1-0 at Millwall on the opening day, PNE enjoyed a thumping 3-0 home win over Wigan Athletic last Saturday week. And that was followed by a 4-0 victory over Bradford in the League Cup in midweek.
However, as things stand with Stoke City to arrive at Deepdale on Wednesday night, North End only have three points from their first three league games – a statiststic which frustrates Neil.
“We need to turn performances into results,” said Neil.
“I think any coach or manager or any team or player would always say they would rather play poorly and win than play well and lose.
“I think results will always be the decisive factor when it comes to players’ confidence.”