Preston North End’s draw a setback but Alex Neil says he is still on course for top six
Alex Neil says Preston remain very much in the hunt for a play-off place despite being held to a draw by Bristol City at Deepdale.
A North End victory would have cut the gap on sixth-placed City to three points but the 1-1 draw meant things stayed as they were.
Hull City and Aston Villa jumped above Neil’s men, who are now 12th – but three teams between them and the top six all dropped points.
Neil said: “We are still in the hunt, that is something I made clear to the players in the dressing room afterwards.
“We are still in there, it is really tight with 11 games to play.
“If someone had told us nine games ago we would be in this position, no one would have believed them.
“Let’s hope that in another nine games time we are still saying the same thing and are really close to the play-offs.
“It would be great to have that opportunity going into the last couple of games.
“What we want to do is keep the season alive, that is the most important thing.
“The one thing I couldn’t fault on Saturday was the lads’ effort – they worked their socks off for the cause.
“It means a lot to them, they get so disappointed when they don’t win – these lads are desperate to get three points.”
Daniel Johnson gave PNE the lead on his recall to the side, netting three minutes before half-time.
The visitors drew level in the 69th minute, with Famara Diedhiou scoring from close range.
Neil was to make a strong case of Diedhiou being in an offside position, which only added to the frustration of two points going begging.
Johnson had got the nod to start his first game since the 1-1 draw with Swansea City on January 12. With Neil wanting to give Ryan Ledson company in the centre of midfield, Johnson started in place of winger Tom Barkhuizen.
His goal was a good one, Paul Gallagher deceiving the Robins’ defence but squaring a free-kick low into the box.
Johnson was first to react, sweeping a first-time shot into the roof of the net.
Said Neil: “I’m not going to take credit for that one, the lads conjured it up themselves on the pitch.
“I’d like to say we worked on it in training last Friday but that would be a lie!
“DJ finished it great – to come up with a finish like in live play was excellent.
“When you look at the game, it was a big one with big things at stake.
“You could see that from the start both teams made and I thought we built our way into the game well.
“Bristol City are a good team, they put together nine wins recently and to do that you have to be good.”