Preston boss Alex Neil confident Sean Maguire will get even better

Preston manager Alex Neil thinks Sean Maguire’s five goals in four games is just for starters, and is predicting the Irish striker will be even better next season.

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Preston striker Sean Maguire is congratulated by Callum Robinson after his goalscoring return at Bolton

Preston striker Sean Maguire is congratulated by Callum Robinson after his goalscoring return at Bolton

Maguire has made a great return to action after being sidelined for four months with a serious hamstring injury.

His first game back saw him net twice as a substitute at Bolton on Gentry Day.

Three days later, Maguire came off the bench to hit the winner against Bristol City.

He scored in the defeat to Fulham and then opened the scoring with a diving header in the win at Sunderland.

Sean Maguire celebrates his goal against Fulham

Sean Maguire celebrates his goal against Fulham

Neil thinks Maguire is still short of full sharpness, which is not a surprise after such a long lay-off.

That will gradually return in the matches and with a full pre-season programme to his name. Neil said: “Sharpness is probably the one thing which has still to come back.

“Sean is in good shape with his fitness – that is something he has worked really hard on.

“I have worked with Sean since the start of the season and when he first came over after being at Cork, he was sharp as a tack.

“Sean can definitely score goals, he can definitely affect games.

“His movement is good, he has good pace, he can take the ball in.

“In my opinion we will see the best of Sean next season once he has a full pre-season under his belt – he will be a top player next year.”

Neil is at pains to point out the seriousness of the injury which kept Maguire on the sidelines.

It is why the 23-year-old was eased back into action with a couple of games off the bench.

“Sean almost ruptured his hamstring,” said Neil.

“It was a really horrendous injury, he had surgery and the scar is nearly 12 inches long.

“It was not routine surgery it was proper stuff and he was probably back quicker than he should have been.

“But Sean is really strong, he is like a bull.

“Like anything, when you come back mid-season you are not going to be at full tilt but he is getting quicker, sharper and better.

“I will be hoping he hits top form between now and the end of the season.

“But I think once he gets a clear run at it and gets a pre-season done, he will be firing on all cylinders.”

This week Maguire is with the Republic of Ireland squad in Turkey, together with PNE team-mates Alan Browne and Daryl Horgan.

They have a three-day training camp before facing Turkey in a friendly on Friday afternoon.

Preston return to action on Good Friday when they make the trip to Hillsborough to play Sheffield Wednesday.