Preston North End boss Alex Neil is keeping his January transfer plans to himself

North End players look dejected after conceding against Middlesbrough
North End players look dejected after conceding against Middlesbrough

Alex Neil would not be drawn on where exactly he would like to improve his Preston North End squad, but he wants a few new faces to freshen things up at Deepdale.

The PNE boss was speaking after North End’s 2-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough, where Rudy Gestede opened the scoring, before Ben Davies poked the ball past Declan Rudd into his own goal to double the visitors’ advantage.

For Neil, the boost that new bodies in the squad could give to his players is a necessity, but the Scot was not revealing much on his January plans.

He said: “That’s going to stay in-house, I’m not going to mention where we’re going to try and strengthen if we are going to strengthen at all.

“Every single manager in the country will say to you they want to strengthen their squad before the window ends, naturally. You don’t want to leave yourself weaker than when you go into the window.

“Albeit we’ve had two poor results, we’re still in a good position in the league. We need to start winning a few more games, naturally, because our form isn’t as good as we’d like.

“A few fresh faces would certainly help us and would give the lads a boost as well. That’s certainly needed, if we can do that.”

North End have scored just once in their last four games and Neil believes the first goal is proving vital, especially in recent home games.

“What we’re very good at is transitions – the difficulty we’ve had in the last two games with Reading and Middlesbrough is they don’t play out from the back,” the 38-year-old said.

“So there’s nothing to stop and nothing to press. Pressing is one of our biggest tools. If you look at the game against Leeds we were on them all the time, we hunted them.

“Fulham – pressed them. West Brom – pressed them. Against those teams we’re 
excellent.

“When the onus is on us to then dictate the ball and break the teams down, that is when it’s become a problem for us.

“Whether we like it or not, Daniel Johnson not being there has been a big issue for us.

“He gives us that extra link where he can drift off each side and be the extra player to help us build. At the moment we haven’t got that and that’s a problem.

“I know where the issues lie, we are trying to resolve it.

“The way we do resolve it is if we do get the first goal – it helps us in the game because then we can be a bit more stable in our shape and hit them on the transition.

“When we’ve conceded that first goal it’s become an issue for us and we’ve had to force the issue and over-commit players. I know exactly where the issues lie – it’s 
another thing trying to fix it.”