Why Preston North End have been able to prosper over the past nine games

Preston North End's Brad Potts
Preston North End's Brad Potts

Preston North End boss Alex Neil says it has been ‘brilliant’ to be able to keep a settled side over the last couple of months.

Neil’s men are unbeaten in nine games heading into the high noon showdown with Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Five players have started those nine matches – Declan Rudd, Andrew Hughes, Brad Potts, Jordan Storey and Alan Browne.

Four more were in from the start for eight of the games, those being Paul Gallagher, Ben Pearson, Ben Davies and Sean Maguire.

Such consistency in team selection has played a big part in PNE’s good form, according to Neil.

“It’s been brilliant, the team has pretty much picked itself,” said Neil.

“There has been a wee tweak here and there to the team if we’ve seen a weakness in the opposition and we think we can hurt them, or they’ve had a particular strength which we’ve tried to negate.

“Other than that, it has been a case of churning out the same team because it has had a good balance.

“The team which has mainly performed well in the last eight or nine games, has a good balance about it.

“That has made my team decisions easier.”

The only ‘tweaks’ to the side have come at right-back, the left-wing and up front.

Darnell Fisher has started seven of the nine games, with Tom Clarke the other two.

Maguire’s initial games back in the side were on the left-wing, Jayden Stockley leading the attack.

A month ago at Bolton, Maguire was switched into the middle in Stockley’s place.

That allowed a return to the wing for Tom Barkhuizen, although Daniel Johnson was preferred ahead of him for last week’s draw with Bristol City.

A settled side has meant time on the sidelines for quite a few of the squad.

January buys Joe Rafferty and Josh Ginnelly are yet to make an appearance, while Brandon Barker has struggled to make the squad.

Neil is set to get an even stronger hand to choose from with Callum Robinson and Louis Moult back in training after hamstring injuries.

“We’ve had four players at the top end of the pitch who have missed a lot of football,” said Neil.

“Billy Bodin has missed all of the season and Josh Harrop most of it.

“Louis Moult has missed a chunk of it and then Callum Robinson has been missing for three or four months.

“For next season that will be four attacking players all back.

“It would have been nice to have had them available for all of this season but it was not to be.

“We’ve managed without them but they will strengthen us when they come back.”