What Alex Neil wants Preston North End players to do above anything else

Alex Neil wants his players to boss possession in games
Alex Neil wants his players to boss possession in games

Alex Neil thinks Preston North End are steadily reaching a point where they can dominate possession in games.

Neil has put an emphasis this season on having spells in games when North End see plenty of the ball rather than play on the break.

It has brought its rewards at times although it remains a work in progress.

Under Neil, and before that with Simon Grayson, the counter-attack worked well for the Lilywhites.

But Neil thinks if they are going to seriously challenge for a promotion place, good possession statistics will be important.

Said Neil: “If you were to take my first game in charge here and the last game we played, the difference in our play has been incredible.

“Because it has been a gradual change and done in increments, you don’t notice it as much.

“Our possession against Nottingham Forest and at Swansea, also in the first half of the Sheffield Wednesday game, was such that we dominated.

“For us to get better as a team, we have to be strong in possession.

“You rarely see teams be promoted when they are not dominant in matches.

“That is what we want to become, a dominant force.

“We are showing signs of going that way and we want to continue on that path.”

Neil, meanwhile, says the competition for places he wants in the Preston squad is working at the moment in the attacking midfield area.

Championship player of the month Daniel Johnson has dislodged Alan Browne from the advanced position behind the striker.

Johnson was picked ahead of Browne for the Wigan game a month ago and hasn’t looked back since.

Said Neil: “Everyone knows my opinion of Alan. He has been fantastic for us and at the moment he will be frustrated that he hasn’t been playing regularly.

“But DJ has been doing great and deserves to be in the team.

“That is what competition in a squad is all about – for a manager that is brilliant.”

Neil was pleased to see Browne score his first goal for the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night.

“The first goal at any level is important to a player and to score in an international was a big moment for Alan,” said Neil.

“I’m sure Alan is delighted and will be hoping to get a chance to score a few more.

“While he hasn’t been in the team as much as he would have liked of late, that doesn’t mean I think any less of him.

“A couple of seasons ago we found a niche for him in the team and he kicked on from there. He has improved so much as a player and with his goalscoring.

“Alan went from scoring 
not many goals to getting more than 20 in two seasons, which was a terrific record.

“He has got international recognition and that shows how far he has come.

“We got him back here with us on Thursday after his international duty and we have been able to do a couple of sessions to get ready for the Brentford game.”