Alex Neil takes satisfaction from Preston North End’s season
Preston manager Alex Neil has given his squad a pat on the back for their achievements this season.
Although this afternoon’s clash with Ipswich will see them trying to arrest a slide of four straight defeats, Neil thinks his players deserve credit when the bigger picture is looked at.
He points to two lengthy unbeaten runs during the campaign, one in which they have been hampered every step of the way by injuries.
From October to March, North End climbed from 24th to seventh in the Championship, and were outside the top six only on goal difference.
However, the form dip since the international break has seen them drop back to 12th place heading into the Easter weekend.
Neil said: “We’ve got at least seven players who hadn’t played in the Championship until this season.
“We have also got the third youngest team in this league.
“In terms of our age to where we are in the division, we are the highest placed team for how young we are.
“We have got one of the smallest budgets and are above teams who have spent a lot more than us.
“For people thinking we haven’t done well enough, we have had injuries to contend with and I think the squad has done extremely well.”
For completeness, Neil has given Championship bows to nine players over the course of the season.
The injuries he references continue to bite hard, with as many as seven casualties for today’s game.
Throw into the equation Ben Pearson’s suspension and Neil’s options are somewhat reduced.
He could still make a few changes from the side beaten 4-1 by West Bromwich Albion last Saturday. Callum Robinson looked a lot sharper than of late when he came on as a substitute in the first half.
He could well be handed a start, while Neil has spoken about wanting to give some of the players who have not had much game time, a run-out in the last four games.
Josh Ginnelly, who made his debut last week, could be one to benefit, so too fellow January buy Joe Rafferty.
Louis Moult and Jayden Stockley could be two more who Neil wants to run the rule over.
Neil said: “I’m not going to put names down in terms of who we may play or not play.
“We haven’t got massive options at the moment, we are a bit restricted.
“I think we need to look at where a few of the lads are up to, so that we can plan ahead.”
Fans are encouraged to dig out their old replica Preston shirts today for ‘Retro Day’.