Alex Neil is full of respect for the work done by opposite number Neil Harris ahead of Preston’s trip to Millwall on Saturday.
A late charge saw the Lions finish just behind North End in eighth in the Championship last season.
They have found things more difficult this time around but an impressive 1-0 win at promotion-chasing Derby on Wednesday night lifted Harris’ men five points clear of the bottom three.
“They’ll be difficult to beat,” said Neil, who was at Pride Park on a scouting brief.
“At Derby they were set up really well behind the ball and looked a threat on the counter and got their goal when they needed it.
“Derby’s first shot was in the 92nd minute.
“Although they had 450 passes and 60-odd per cent possession they didn’t really hurt, damage or ask many questions of Millwall at all.
“I’m sure Neil will have been quite happy and I’m pleased for him.
“I thought he had a great season last year and he’s one of the good, honest coaches who tries to do everything the right way.”
Having also reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with victory at AFC Wimbledon last Saturday, the Lions return home in good spirits.
They host Brighton in the last eight next month but PNE boss Neil does not believe that will be a distraction of any kind this weekend.
“I can’t speak for Neil but I imagine the league is his bread and butter,” he said.
“The cup’s a knockout competition so if you put your energies into that and then lose you’re out at the quarter-finals and nobody really remembers that.
“League form is really crucial for them and I’m sure they’ll be fired up and ready for this game.
“It was a massive three points for them on Wednesday and they’ll be thinking, ‘This is a home game, let’s go and try and stretch ourselves away from that bottom area’.”
PNE are looking to make it four away wins on the spin at what is traditionally one of the more hostile grounds.
Neil has had mixed fortunes at The Den and is confident his side will be ready for the test ahead.
“I’ve had two completely different experiences,” he said.
“We played Neil’s team last year and it was a really difficult game. They took the lead and then we managed to nick a goal through Callum Robinson at the end and it was one-each in an even game.
“I went with Norwich when Ian Holloway was the manager and I think it was his last game.
“We beat them 4-1 and it was a difficult venue but more so for them.
“If their team are doing well they’ll give them a hell of a lot of backing and be really vocal but if they’re not, they are certainly the type of crowd that if they’re not happy with what they’re seeing then they’ll voice their displeasure.
“I think it’s a bit different in a way with Neil though.
“They give him really good support and see him as one of their own.”