Wide players have to fit Alex Neil’s attacking plan for Preston North End

Sean Maguire has been a regular on the left-hand side for Preston
Sean Maguire has been a regular on the left-hand side for Preston

Alex Neil has explained how he likes to use the wide players in his Preston team.

The exit of loanee Andre Green on Thursday sparked plenty of debate, with the winger having had very limited game time in his five months at Deepdale.

Neil explained that Green liked to ‘hug the touchline’ down the left-hand side, that not necessarily something he was looking for.

“It is down the right wing that we have people wider,” said PNE boss Neil.

“Tom Barkhuizen or Billy Bodin will hug the touchline, with Tom happy to go on the outside and Billy liking to come in with the ball.

“On the left we’ll have Josh Harrop or Sean Maguire who like to play inside the pitch and let Andrew Hughes be more aggressive down the outside of them.

“Andre preferred to play off the left rather than the right so it was more difficult getting the balance right.”

Green leaving to spend the second half of the season on loan at Charlton from Aston Villa could well create space for a wide player on Preston’s January shopping list.

Said Neil: “We’ll have to have a look at that, see who we can bring in.

“Hopefully at the end of the window we are in a stronger position.

“We do need to strengthen, this recent period of results shows we need a bit of a helping hand.”

On the selection front, all eyes will be on Neil’s choices for today’s FA Cup clash with Norwich City at Deepdale.

He is likely to make a number of changes to the side beaten by Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day in a bid to freshen up the team and give a rest to some regulars.

Looking after players who have returned from injury of late will be in Neil’s mind. 
Ben Davies has played three games back-to-back since returning from issues with both ankles.

Tom Clarke had done likewise following a knee injury and Neil rested him from the matchday squad for the Middlesbrough defeat.

Paul Huntington was the defensive cover on the bench and was pressed into service when Patrick Bauer was subbed at half-time having not fully got over a bout of ’flu

Neil said: “Leaving Hunts out of the side was a difficult decision because he has done well since he came in.

“We had him on the bench in case Patrick wasn’t right and we did need him.

“Potentially Patrick might need a few days longer to get himself fully right.

“We didn’t use Tom Clarke in the squad on Wednesday because he had come back in and put three games together in quick succession.

“Tom’s had three knee injuries in 12 months so we just need to protect him.”