Preston North End manager Alex Neil looking to piece together the right balance against Fulham

Billy Bodin caught the eye when he came on as substitute against QPR and could start against Fulham
Billy Bodin caught the eye when he came on as substitute against QPR and could start against Fulham

Alex Neil admits putting the Preston North End side together at the moment is like ‘doing a jigsaw with pieces missing’.

The Lilywhites will be out to halt a run of four defeats when they host Fulham at Deepdale tonight (7.45pm).

Preston manager Alex Neil

Preston manager Alex Neil

With the visitors sitting third in the table and having one of the strongest squads in the Championship, it looks a tough assignment for PNE.

Neil is confident that his side can get back on an even keel, a cause which would be helped if he could get some of his injured players back.

“This is a difficult spell for us, we know that,” said the North End manager.

“I did say a few times before this spell that we’d had to change and tinker the side quite a lot this season.

David Nugent in the dug out before Preston's game at Queens Park Rangers - could he start against Fulham?

David Nugent in the dug out before Preston's game at Queens Park Rangers - could he start against Fulham?

“There has been a lot of tinkering in there, sometimes it has worked and sometimes it hasn’t like at the moment.

“We’ve not had the balance right recently, I feel like I’m doing a jigsaw and have a couple of pieces missing.

“The balance is a bit of an issue and that is something we are having to work on.

“We have missed two of our technical midfielders who give us that extra link in the middle.

“Our ball-playing central defender Ben Davies has been missing which means we haven’t been able to build.

“Ben gives us pace and he covers the flank down his side too which he is great at.

“Darnell Fisher hasn’t been there so we’ve had to flip full-backs.

“We’ve only just been able to move Joe Rafferty back to the right after he’s been playing at left-back.

“Andrew Hughes is only just back in after being out for a lot of the season.”

Neil was keeping his cards close to his chest as to the fitness or otherwise of those who have missed games of late.

While changes in defence and midfield have been enforced ones over the last fortnight, Neil could voluntarily switch things round going forward tonight in the search for points.

David Nugent and Billy Bodin both gave the front line a boost when they came on as substitutes at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Josh Harrop is another attacking option in midfield or out wide.

As North End look to find their form, Neil says the good results which took them to the top of the table shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Throughout a season it is not always going to be plain sailing,” said Neil.

“Until four games ago, everything was going in our favour and we produced some great results and football.

“We need to get ourselves off the negative momentum as quickly as possible, return to the positive momentum we had until recently.”