Alex Neil wants a show of strength from Preston North End squad at Bradford City in Carabao Cup

Joe Rafferty is a likely starter for Preston against Bradford City tonight
Joe Rafferty is a likely starter for Preston against Bradford City tonight

Alex Neil has every faith in the depth of his Preston squad to be able to freshen up the team for tonight’s visit to Bradford in the League Cup.

The PNE manager is likely to make wholesale changes at Valley Parade (7.45pm) as he looks to reach the second round and spread game-time around the squad.

Neil certainly possesses the numbers to do that when it is taken into account who was on the bench for Saturday’s win over Wigan and who didn’t make the matchday squad.

In the Wigan game, Alan Browne, Tom Clarke and Jayden Stockley came on as second-half subs while Tom Barkhuizen, Andre Green, Brad Potts and Connor Ripley stayed on the bench.

Those who did not make the squad included Joe Rafferty, Jordan Storey, Josh Harrop, Paul Huntington, new boy Tom Bayliss and Josh Ginnelly, while midfielder Ryan Ledson was completing a four-game ban – Ledson is available tonight.

Neil said: “I think we will give some of the other lads an opportunity. It is important we keep the squad fresh.

“I know we have only played two matches and when I say keeping it fresh I don’t mean in terms of taking lads out who have been playing, but rather giving other lads enough minutes to have them ready for games coming up.

“We have got Saturday/Wednesday/Saturday coming up so I bear that in mind.

“At the moment we have got quite a big squad and that gives us opportunities to change without dropping standards.

“I wouldn’t put any of the players in if I didn’t think they were capable of winning the game.

“What we don’t want to do is go to Bradford and put in an abject performance which gets us knocked out. We want to play well, win the game and be in the hat for the next round.

“I want the lads to come off the pitch feeling good about themselves, thinking they have a genuine chance to push the guy in their position for a place in the team.”

One player not available is David Nugent because of a calf injury which is expected to rule him out for a few weeks – far longer than expected.

He suffered the injury in last week’s bounce game with Salford.

On the injury front, Neil hopes a tight hamstring which Andrew Hughes complained of at the end of the Wigan game is nothing serious.

Said Neil: “You could call it a bit of naivety from him in the 95th minute when we were 3-0 up at home to decide to make an overlapping run.

“That is what he chose to do and his hamstring tightened up once he had done it.

“I’m hoping it is not going to be a big concern and that he is okay.”