Alex Neil: Why Tom Clarke got the nod ahead of Darnell Fisher for Preston North End’s derby

Preston skipper Tom Clarke challenges Blackburn striker Adam Armstrong at Ewood Park
Preston skipper Tom Clarke challenges Blackburn striker Adam Armstrong at Ewood Park

Alex Neil has explained his reasons for choosing Tom Clarke ahead of Darnell Fisher in Preston’s derby draw with Blackburn Rovers.

Clarke was the choice at right-back for the trip to Ewood Park, Fisher having played the previous two games after returning from suspension and injury.

PNE manager Neil said he had some concerns about Fisher seeming tired, while he was anxious to add Clarke’s height to the team.

It was a stray pass from the skipper which was intercepted for Blackburn’s early opener scored by Adam Armstrong.

Clarke had also had the chance to take the ball from Armstrong just before he shot.

He was to make amends in stoppage time with a fine clearing header under pressure from Rovers sub Danny Graham.

Neil said: “The main reason was that in the Middlesbrough game I thought Darnell looked tired, he wasn’t recovering quick enough.

“We lacked height too in the team, that was something to consider.

“If you looked at the size of the side, we had Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies and Alan Browne to give us height, that was it. That would not have been particularly big in terms of set-plays.

“It is easy to criticise Tom for that first mistake but that last clearance at the back post is why he was in the team.

“I think if that was someone smaller it would have been a problem for us because Danny Graham was coming over the top of him.

“As a manager I have to make decisions, I have to look at the bigger picture.

“I’m sure people will disagree but that is the way it is.”

Fisher was an unused substitute at Blackburn.

He had a four-game spell out of the side through injury in late November and early December.

The right-back returned to action in the 2-1 victory over Luton but was booked for the 10th time, triggering a 
two-game ban.

Clarke filled in well against Cardiff and Leeds, and was preferred ahead of Fisher for the Reading game.

Fisher then came in to play against Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day and in the FA Cup defeat to Norwich.

On the other side of the pitch, injury kept left-back Andrew Hughes out against Blackburn.

Said Neil: “Hughesy wasn’t quite right.

“He would naturally give us height so we miss him when he doesn’t play.”