PNE starting to get the numbers back

Preston North End's Jordan Hugill
Preston North End's Jordan Hugill

Alex Neil is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of a reduction of Preston North End’s absence list.

The Lilywhites will have top scorer Jordan Hugill back from suspension at Bristol City tonight, while a couple of the walking wounded could also return.

Having named every senior available player in the squad for Friday night’s draw against Bolton – including Tom Clarke after seven months out – Neil is pleased at the prospect of more bodies available.

“It will be nice to have some players back,” said Neil.

“If I have a near full squad to choose from, there is some real competition for places which is a big factor.

“When you are a player in the team, it is good to look over at the bench and see who could replace you if you are not performing well.

“The situation we’ve been in is that if someone is not playing well, it’s a choice of me or Steve Cowell our kitman to replace them.

“Steve probably fancies his chances but he’s hopeless, I’ve seen him play head tennis!”

While not disclosing who, Neil reported that ‘a couple’ of players had trained on Sunday for the first time after injury.

North End had another session yesterday morning before setting off for Bristol.

Said Neil: “We might have a couple of lads back.

“A couple of them did a training session with us on Sunday which was good.

“We’ve got to see how they recovered from that and how they are feeling.

“It’s a matter of how their bodies are feeling, can they go back in the starting XI or be back in the squad?

“Every senior professional we had available was involved on Friday against Bolton.

“In the first half of that game we were better than what we had been of late.

“We were trying to win the game and didn’t, so we were disappointed in that respect.

“Now we have a difficult game at Bristol City which we are looking forward to.”

In terms of squad age and approach, Neil sees plenty of similarities between PNE and the Robins.

“They have got a young and energetic team and it can take time to get them working the way you want.

“Last year a lot of them were about potential, while I think a lot of them are now showing their potential.

“We probably fall into a similar bracket in that we have a lot of younger players who are trying to find their way in the game.

“The one thing Bristol City have much more of than us is cash, I think they brought a centre forward for £5m.

“That is different than where we are at but looking at it solely in term of the ages of players and the make-up of the squad, we are not too dissimilar.”