Exclusive Sean Gregan Preston North End column: What Alex Neil needs next season
Preston North End’s draw with Sheffield Wednesday in the final home game of the season was a mixed bag from their point of view.
To give away a 3-1 lead and have to settle for a draw was disappointing.
However, in the first half especially, PNE played some good football and it was good to see Jayden Stockley score a goal at Deepdale.
Conceding the last two goals probably highlighted North End’s need for a touch more experience in the squad. Wednesday threw on a couple of big lads and played to their strengths.
When a team is on the front foot like the visitors were at the time, you just need a bit more nous – slow the game down and stop the momentum.
I’m told that Alex Neil has hinted about trying to bring in a bit more experience in the summer.
If that is the case and they could add some new signings to the younger lads already here, that would be a good blend.
The players who have come in over the last season or two will only have grown in experience and got more games under their belts.
When you look at North End’s season as a while, it was the start which killed them in terms of making a push for the play-offs.
There was the spell from late August through to the end of September when they picked up one point from seven games.
That left them at the foot of the division and Preston’s recovery was a strong one.
However, they always had to play catch-up and to have climbed as high as seventh place was impressive.
Unfortunately they hit the sticky patch after the March international break and have not been able to recover.
If you contrast that with Middlesbrough for example, Boro started really well and got plenty of points on the board.
Even with a run of five or six straight defeats, they didn’t fall far off the pace as they had points in the bag.
What we can’t ignore this season is the strong form in the middle of the campaign.
Preston had two lengthy strong runs, the one which really carried them up the table being the 12-match unbeaten sequence between January and March.
When you combine that with the run put together through the autumn and up to Christmas, they lost only four league games out of 28.
After Saturday’s draw, the focus now goes on the final game of the season against Brentford at Griffin Park next Sunday lunchtime.
It would be great if North End could finish off with a good result in London and go into the summer on a high.
Although nothing is at stake in terms of promotion or relegation, it is a game which has to be approached properly.
People pay good money to watch a game and the PNE travelling to the capital will want a good day out.
I’m sure Alex Neil will have the squad focused on the task in hand before they go away on their holidays.
This could be a game for a couple of players to take their chance.