Victory over Middlesbrough would keep momentum going says Preston North End boss Alex Neil
Alex Neil hopes the Preston ‘snowball’ can keep rolling in the clash with Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium this evening.
The Lilywhites travel to Teesside (7.45pm) on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run and victory would take them to within four points of Tony Pulis’ men.
In terms of their history of results against Boro, PNE will have to flip it on its head if they are to bring something back.
They have not won in the league against tonight’s hosts since April 1972 – their only victory since then came in the FA Cup at Ayresome Park in 1987.
North End manager Neil said: “I always look at games at this stage of the season as having a snowball effect.
“You win a game and the next one becomes bigger, then you win that next one and the game after becomes a really big one.
“We’re at the stage where every game we play becomes bigger because the number of games left is diminishing.
“We have Middlesbrough now – if we did manage to beat them it would bring them to within four points of us.
“However, Middlesbrough are a very good side and very difficult to beat.
“Defensively they are very good, certainly the best in the division – I think it is only 10 goals from open play which they have conceded.
“It will be a difficult game but we have got the belief that we can go there and extend our unbeaten run.”
Ben Pearson returns to the PNE squad, having completed a two-game suspension for 10 yellow cards.
However, Darnell Fisher will be missing as he serves a one-match ban for his red card in the 1-0 win at Blackburn.
Joe Rafferty or Tom Clarke will take Fisher’s right-back slot, the involvement of Clarke dependent on his recovering from a knee injury.
The fitness of Brad Potts and Tom Barkhuizen will be assessed ahead of the trip.
With tonight’s game being followed by Saturday’s home clash with Birmingham, this is a key few days for Preston.
Although Neil is eyeing a maximum haul, he does not think six points is the be-all and end-all when it comes to their play-off chances.
Said Neil: “Most teams up there have each other to play and so a lot of teams are going to cut each other’s throats.
“We got four points from Bristol City and Blackburn and clawed back the gap a bit.
“It’s about making sure that after the next four or five games we are in a position to still be in competition.
“If you offered me a chance to be able to bridge the gap on the top six in the last four or five games, I would take it.
“With 10 games to go we have got ourselves a chance of threatening to get into the play-offs.”