Preston North End manager Alex Neil - 'The best thing about the first half was the half-time whistle'

Preston manager Alex Neil gives out instructions during a break in play against Derby
Preston manager Alex Neil gives out instructions during a break in play against Derby

Preston North End manager Alex Neil says a poor first-half showing proved his side's undoing in the 1-0 defeat to Derby County at Pride Park.

The Lilywhites were very much second best to their hosts for 45 minutes and could count themselves fortunate to have gone in at the interval only one-goal down.

In fact Neil admitted being 1-0 down at the break had flattered his side and it was a relief to hear the half-time whistle.

A double substitution at half-time and a change of approach led to a better second-half show from North End but it wasn't enough to get anything from the contest.

Tom Barkhuizen did have the ball in the net when he got the last touch on a Ben Davies shot but he was flagged offside.

Neil said: "We didn't do anything well in the first half across the pitch, I didn't think our kicking up to Jayden Stockley was good enough, we didn't feed him enough balls.

"We didn't pick any second balls up, we didn't get tight enough. We were just really poor and to be fair to Derby, they were excellent.

"The best thing in the first half was the half-time whistle for us because 1-0 flattered us in the first half.

"For the second half we made two changes, altered the way we played and I thought we then controlled the game.

"But I think Derby then sat back and tried to hit us on the counter. They didn't create too much to hurt us in the second half.

"We probably had two opportunities and didn't get anything.

"Tom Barkhuizen had the ball in the net and by all accounts it could quite easily have been given - he was in line-ish and it was difficult to say if he was offside or not.

"Then Jordan Storey has a great chance when he hit the post. But it is the first half which has cost us."

The half-time double change saw Paul Gallagher and Billy Bodin replace Darnell Fisher - on a yellow card - and centre-forward Stockley.

Barkhuizen went up front, Daniel Johnson played as the No.10 and Gallagher played deeper next to Ben Pearson.

Neil said: "Before the game I was sort of caught in between of how to play.

"Jayden had played the last three games and done particularly well but we had a different way of playing before that and I was caught in between how to approach this one.

"We can't blame that for the first-half performance, how you move the ball, how you compete dictates whether you will have a chance.

"Formations weren't the be all and end all, albeit it did improve in the second half but by then we were chasing the game."

Centre-half Davies came off after 72 minutes with an ankle injury and is an early doubt for Wednesday night's trip to Hull City.