Preston North End boss Alex Neil will not criticise defenders

Preston centre-half Jordan Storey
Preston centre-half Jordan Storey

Preston boss Alex Neil admits it is hard to be over-critical of his defence after the defeat to Reading at the weekend.

Both of the Royals’ goals in the 2-1 loss were avoidable, particularly the second.

For that goal, a back pass from Ben Davies fell short of Declan Rudd.

There was then hesitancy between the goalkeeper and Jordan Storey which allowed Mo Barrow to nip in and roll the ball into the net.

Mistakes at the back have been rare in recent months for PNE, Davies and Storey as solid as they come at the heart of the defence.

In the 12-game unbeaten run which ended on Saturday, North End shipped only seven goals with Rudd keeping five clean sheets.

Neil said: “It is difficult to be critical of them but equally we wanted to win the match so the lads were frustrated and disappointed.

“They know how good they can be and the simple fact is we didn’t deal well enough with the ball for the goals.

“For young players this is part of their development.

“The back four we put out at Reading was very young.

“We had Josh Earl at left-back because Andrew Hughes was missing.

“The mistakes we made on Saturday are ones we simply can’t afford to replicate in the games coming up.”

The Davies/Storey pairing had been one of Deepdale’s success stories this season.

It has been the preferred centre-half partnership since the 4-1 victory at Queens Park Rangers in January.

That was the second game of the unbeaten run, Davies having missed the 1-1 draw with Swansea the weekend before through injury.

PNE’s focus is trained on bouncing back to form against Sheffield United at Deepdale on Saturday. It is the first of three games in a week against top-four sides, with Leeds and West Bromwich Albion to 
follow.

Neil will be hoping some of the injuries clear up in time for the visit of the Blades.

He was without five of his regulars against Reading, that in addition to the long-term walking wounded.

Ben Pearson and Brandon Barker joined the casualty list in the second half.

Neil does not think there is a particular pattern to how the injuries happen.

“You look for a pattern but each individual is different,” said Neil.

“Andrew Hughes’ injury came when he was extending and someone banged into his back, which meant he got a hamstring injury.

“Tom Barkhuizen has a knee injury, Ben Pearson and Brandon Barker’s were both hamstrings due to contact.

“Alan Browne’s injury was a contact on his knee – they are all different kinds and we have to deal with them.”