Preston North End boss Alex Neil aims for a stronger start to the season

Preston midfielder Alan Browne looks dejected as West Bromwich Albion score at Deepdale in September
Preston midfielder Alan Browne looks dejected as West Bromwich Albion score at Deepdale in September

Preston North End boss Alex Neil is well aware of the need for a better start to the season than the one made by his side last year.

The Lilywhites had just five points on the board after 10 games in the last campaign, with four of those collected in the first three games.

Preston manager Alex Neil

Preston manager Alex Neil

Bottom of the league at the start of October, it meant they had a big game of catch-up to play in the months ahead.

In fairness, North End put together a strong run of form to climb the table and reach as high as seventh place in March.

Then their form nose-dived with Neil’s men taking only four points from the last eight matches.

Neil, who celebrated his 38th birthday on Sunday, felt PNE should have had more points on the board early on than they managed.

Callum Robinson puts Preston ahead against Bolton

Callum Robinson puts Preston ahead against Bolton

That does not deflect from the fact that it was a torrid start though.

“In the first 10 games there were certain ones when we were really unfortunate,” Neil told the Lancashire Post.

“In the 2-2 draw with Bolton, we were 2-0 up and we should have beaten them.

“Even the Reading game which we lost 3-2, we had 23 shots which was one of our highest number of the season. There were little things which went against us, every time we made an error the ball ended up in the net.

Reading score against PNE at Deepdale

Reading score against PNE at Deepdale

“West Bromwich Albion at home, a cross hits Ben Davies on the head and goes in.

“Dwight Gayle spanked a free-kick into the top corner from 35 yards – nothing went right for us.

“Saying all that, you look at some of the games which came during our good run of form and we were quite fortunate in some of them.

“Sometimes you can be a bit unlucky and at other times, luck goes your way.

“What you find is that the best teams who go on and be successful are consistent.

“Consistency is the key, you need to keep churning out the results even if you don’t play too well.

“At times we didn’t have the consistency of selection – I think during the season we gave debuts to 10 players who hadn’t played Championship football before.”

Last season’s start was in contrast to the one made in the 2017/18 campaign.

At the 10-game mark of Neil’s first season, North End had 19 points on the board.

The PNE squad report back to Springfields for pre-season training in the final week of June, the season kicking off on August 3.