Flexibility is the key says Preston North End boss Alex Neil

Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher after the goalless draw against Derby
Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher after the goalless draw against Derby

Preston’s flexibility within their current starting line-up is offering Alex Neil plenty of encouragement as he targets an extension of their recent good form.

The North End boss has been able to alter formation and shape during matches just by switching round a couple of players.

In Friday night’s goalless draw against Derby County, Paul Gallagher and Brad Potts swapped roles for the second half to good effect.

That move brought Potts into the thick of the action in the centre of midfield and gave Gallagher more room to play in a wider role.

PNE had started that way in the 4-1 win at Queens Park Rangers a fortnight ago.

Neil said: “It is great to have flexibility in there, I like that in my teams.

“We had it last season with Sean Maguire and Callum Robinson.

“If we were struggling a bit to have a presence at the top end of the pitch and Sean wasn’t getting in behind, I could put Callum in there as a false nine.

“Callum would be able to drop into pockets of space and take centre-backs into places where they didn’t want to go.

“We are now more flexible in other parts of the pitch, the midfield in particular.

“I can have Gally in there as part of a two and control the game that way, or I can bump him out wide.

“If he moves out wide, the full-back can’t come out and get him because he plays deep.

“With Gally wide, then I have two running No.10s 
going into the space.

“We went with both those ways in the Derby game and you saw how well we did in the second half.

“Brad Potts did very well as one of the No.10s.

“He was really unfortunate when a ball fell for him in the box but with the pitch being a bit harder with the weather, it just popped up higher than it would have done normally.

“You’ve seen him run on to things to score in the two games before that.”

In the Derby game, Neil used two of his substitutes in the course of the second half.

Lukas Nmecha replaced Jayden Stockley, then Tom Barkhuizen took over from Gallagher.

Stockley’s substitution was questioned by some fans but Neil felt a different approach was required.

Said Neil: “We had put more than 20 crosses into the box and weren’t getting much joy off that.

“We needed to suck Derby in and thread passes through, which is more Lukas’ game than Jayden’s.

“Lukas could get down the side of them and try to stretch them that way.

“We have plenty of options like that and flexibility and we will need that as we look to continue this run.”