Preston North End midfielder Tom Bayliss having to be patient in his wait for a first-team chance at Deepdale

Alex Neil thinks midfield is the strongest area of his Preston squad, hence big-money buy Tom Bayliss having had a wait on his hands to get a chance in the first-team picture.
Preston midfielder Tom BaylissPreston midfielder Tom Bayliss
Preston midfielder Tom Bayliss

The 20-year-old, who joined PNE from Coventry at the start of August, has been limited to three appearances in the League Cup.

While he has been sidelined by a jarred knee for a couple of weeks – Bayliss is now back in training – the competition for places is the reason for a lack of action so far.

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“Midfield is the strongest area of the team for numbers and depth of quality,” said North End boss Neil.

“For Tom or any young player it is a tough position to break into.

“Daniel Johnson was in and out last season, it has been the same for Alan Browne this year. It’s a strong part of the squad – remember DJ didn’t play in the first game.”

Bayliss started the League Cup wins over Bradford City and Hull City in August.

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He was then a 76th-minute substitute in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City a month ago.

In the Championship game at Nottingham Forest, Bayliss was an unused substitute.

Neil said: “Unfortunately for Tom he was injured for a few weeks. He couldn’t play in the bounce game we had during the international break.

“Tom’s now had a week’s training under his belt, that is the situation with him.

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“The injury wasn’t a bad one, he just tweaked his knee a little bit.

“He’s doing okay here and has looked better since he came back from his injury.

“What he probably needs now is some minutes under his belt – a bounce game would do him the world of good.”

In terms of Bayliss and some other players getting a first-team chance, Neil says sometimes a large degree of patience is needed.

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“The biggest difficulty for them is how well the team has been performing,” said Neil.

“It is easy to say, ‘Why he is not playing’? My answer at the moment is, ‘Who would you take out’?

“I’ve said it a few times that there is very little between a lot of the players here.

“We are doing it on fine margins, you could pick one player above another on the strength of a training session – that is how tight it is.

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“When it comes to picking a bench, we are trying to get balance as well.

“There might be someone doing well but the balance of the bench might not have been quite right if they were picked as they didn’t cover a certain position.

“We’ve got to make sure we have enough defenders, midfielders and attackers on the bench to cover all that we can.

“So some players do miss out as a result of that.”