Preston boss Alex Neil does not regret keeping Ben Pearson on the field despite the midfielder picking up another booking and ban

Preston North End's Ben Pearson
Preston North End's Ben Pearson

Alex Neil says the need for Preston to protect their lead at Millwall was the reason why he didn’t take off Ben Pearson in the closing stages.

The midfielder picked-up a late yellow card at The Den for kicking the ball away, that his 10th caution of the season.

It triggers a two-match ban, with Pearson to miss the visit of Bristol City to Deepdale this Saturday and North End’s derby clash at Blackburn on March 9.

As Pearson was walking a disciplinary tightrope, some fans did question why Neil chose not to take him off when PNE were 3-1 up.

However, the North End boss reasoned that he needed the 24-year-old on the pitch to help prevent Millwall getting back into the game.

Neil’s men had raced into a 3-0 lead inside 27 minutes with goals from Andrew Hughes, Tom Clarke and Sean Maguire.

The hosts pulled a goal back in the 67th minute through Ben Thompson and upped the ante from there.

Neil said: “I took Ben off at Bolton a couple of weeks ago, Bolton then scored and looked as if they were going to score another one.

“Unless Ben is injured or not performing well, in all likelihood I will keep him on the pitch.

“What he did on Saturday was perform really well,so you are always reluctant to take your best players off – he was fantastic for us.

“Yes I could have taken him off but if the game had finished 3-3 we would then have been having a discussion about how I made a bad decision.”

This will be the fourth time Pearson has been suspended this season.

Previously he has served two bans for red cards and a suspension for reaching the five-bookings mark.

The nature of this latest yellow card for kicking the ball away when a free-kick went against PNE, just added to the frustration.

Victory in South London was North End’s fourth away win on the bounce.

It moved them within six points of Bristol City who are in sixth place and next-up for Neil’s men.

Four away wins was last done by PNE in League One in 2013, while they did likewise in the top tier in 1959.

At Championship level equivalent, they hadn’t won four on the bounce away since the 1950/51 season.

“I wasn’t interested in records, I just wanted to win the game and move on to the next one,” said Neil.

“We are six points behind sixth place although others have games in hands.

“If you had told us six games ago that we would be in this situation, we would have been delighted with that.

“We are trying our best to claw that gap back and against Millwall we performed very well doing that.”