Challenge set for Preston North End midfielder Ben Pearson by Deepdale boss Alex Neil

Alex Neil says the challenge for Preston North End midfielder Ben Pearson is to produce the dominant performance he did at Cardiff on a regular basis.

Preston midfielder Ben Pearson in action at Cardiff
Preston midfielder Ben Pearson in action at Cardiff

Lilywhites manager Neil felt Pearson’s display at the weekend was his ‘best for a while’, with him strong both in his defensive duties and going forward.

Neil said: “When you have the talent which Ben has, you have to transfer that talent into absolutely dominating games.

“That is what I thought he did at Cardiff, he took that talent and made it into a dominating performance.

Preston manager Alex Neil and midfielder Ben Pearson

“It is something which is really difficult to do regularly but it is the level we need to get him to.”

PNE could do with a similar display from Pearson when they face Leeds at Elland Road on Boxing Day.

That kicks-off the festive programme, with home matches to follow against Reading and Middlesbrough.

Neil said: “Ben is a quality footballer, he’s got everything to be a top player.

“He has an understanding of the game, he is very clever in terms of possession.

“Ben stops things, he reads danger really well and covers the ground.

“People don’t realise Ben is as quick as what he is. Ben is one of our quickest players particularly over short distances – 10-15 yards.

“A lot of sitters don’t have pace because they sit in the middle of the park and don’t have to cover much ground.

“But Ben has got that pace and that makes him a special talent.

“He can take the ball, can hit off either foot, he can open the game out in terms of his passing.

“His pass at Cardiff which put Sean Maguire clean through was sensational.”

Neil likes to give Pearson the company of Paul Gallagher in midfield if possible.

He thinks the two are the right foil for one another and helps to build play.

“Gally is that extra link when he plays, he’s different to Ben,” said Neil.

“Ben will look further afield now and again but a lot of his passing is short and to feet. He retains the ball well, recycles it and shifts it from side to side.

“Whereas Gally will look for a damaging pass every time he gets it.

“He opens out and looks for the pass which is going to hurt the opposition right away.

“Gally’s natural intelligent game gives us that extra link on the pitch.

“When the opposition has to sacrifice people to push on and get up against Ben and Gally, our wide players can drift inside into the spaces they leave.

“There have been other games when to give us more presence higher up we have gone with two running tens.”