Returning players gave us boost we needed says Preston boss Alex Neil

Darnell Fisher in action on his return to the Preston side at Bristol City.
Darnell Fisher in action on his return to the Preston side at Bristol City.

Alex Neil hailed his returning players as Preston won for the first time in eight Championship games at Bristol City.

Paul Gallagher and Callum Robinson got the goals as North End won 2-1 at Ashton Gate, aided by having their healthiest squad in recent weeks.

Jordan Hugill was back from his ban up front while Darnell Fisher and Ben Davies came into the back four after their respective injuries.

“It was a crucial win for us,” said Neil.

“Our record of late has not been good and we needed to turn it around.

“When you put the players who you’ve been missing back in your team there’s added pressure because when you’ve been saying you’re not so good when they’re missing when they’re back a performance is expected.

“I think we got that and that was really pleasing.”

The PNE boss felt having key figures return gave his side a mental boost as much as anything else, club captain Tom Clarke also making his first appearance for seven months as a late substitute.

“Confidence is key in football,” Neil said.

“When you turn around and look at the guys next to you and all the best players are available then I think naturally you go out with a confidence and a bit of a swagger about yourself and a real belief that you’re going to win the game.

“When you know that you’re depleted you can’t hide it now.

“It’s all over social media and it’s all over every press that you want to read about how many players we’ve got missing.

“The players are only human. They look at it and think ‘we’re up against it now’.

“That mindset automatically is a negative one and it makes it more difficult.

“I’ve been talking about it for the last few matches and I’m sure some people are sick of it but when we get our best players back we’re a better team.

“It’s as simple as that and I thought that was on display.”

With players coming back from injury Andy Boyle, Kevin O’Connor, Alan Browne and Robinson all dropped out of the starting line-up.

The latter came off the bench to score what turned out to be a crucial second as Cauley Woodrow pulled a late goal back for the hosts.

“I was delighted for Callum,” said Neil.

“He started on Friday night and got another chance tonight for the final half an hour and got his goal.

“It’s going to be a squad game. That’s always the case.

“We need everyone and if Callum wants to try and force me to get him into the starting XI then he’s certainly going the right way about it by scoring.”

Ben Pearson picked up his fifth booking of the season and will miss Saturday’s game at Norwich.