Preston North End boss Alex Neil salutes his players for coping without key figures

Sean Maguire opened the scoring against Brentford
Sean Maguire opened the scoring against Brentford

Alex Neil says Preston’s squad deserves credit for the way they have brushed off being without key players to climb into the play-off positions.

The Lilywhites’ 2-0 win over Brentford maintained a 100% start at Deepdale, this the first time they have won their opening four league home games for 44 years.

Victory over the Bees was achieved without influential midfielder Ben Pearson who had a virus.

It meant another change for PNE boss Neil to make, a theme of the opening weeks of the campaign.

Yet North End have moved into the upper echelons of the Championship table, much to Neil’s delight.

He said: “With what we have had to contend with, we deserve a lot of credit.

“We have had a key players missing. We’ve played Billy Bodin up front, Tom Barkhuizen up front, Sean Maguire, Jayden Stockley and Louis Moult up front – and we’ve only had seven games.

“It shows the difficulties which have arisen but we have found solutions.

“That players have brushed it off and got on with the job – that has been great to see.”

Pearson was not able to train on Friday and his place went to Ryan Ledson.

It was not a one-way street in term of injuries though, with Neil able to bring Maguire and Barkhuizen back into the team, with both on target.

Said Neil: “Pearo hasn’t been well and he didn’t take part in training on Friday, so we half knew then that he was not going to be available.

“The part Pearo plays in building our play was the hard bit to replace.

“He’s used to it but Ryan was coming in for his first league start of the season.

“Ryan did that job against the hardest team in the league in the fact he had two No.10s playing either side of him and had to decide which one of them to pick up.

“In the second half I felt we needed Paul Gallagher’s calm head on the pitch to retain the ball better.”

Maguire shot Preston into a fourth-minute lead from a Ledson cross, the Irishman back in action after injuring his left eye in training.

It was an advantage which Barkhuizen – sidelined with a groin injury since the win over Hull – doubled in the 70th minute.

Neil said: “We sent Sean to see a proper specialist and he gave him the all-clear.

“It was good to have 
Tom back too – he’s been 
great for me for the last two years.

“We played a really good side in Brentford, they move the ball well.

“They have spent a lot of money on players, a lot from the continent who are very good on the ball.

“Our boys deserve a lot of credit for beating them.”