Preston boss Alex Neil is looking for more consistency from his men

Alex Neil has consistency at the forefront of his mind as Preston North End prepare to face Middlesbrough at Deepdale tonight.

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 8:00 am
Alan Browne

Were the Lilywhites to get something from Boro (7pm), it would be the first time in the league this season they have gone three games unbeaten.

North End won 3-2 at AFC Bournemouth last week and then rather disappointingly drew 2-2 at home with Wycombe Wanderers.

Results have been patchy so far, twice PNE losing two on the bounce and only once winning back-to-back games in the Championship.

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The one pattern which has emerged it that Neil’s men are far better on the road than at their own ground.

PNE boss Neil said: “This season it seems that we are taking one step forward and one step back.

“Our form has been a bit lose, win, lose, draw, win.

“It just feels like we are getting a head of steam and then things fall away.

“But then compare us to say Millwall in this division.

“Recently Millwall drew five games in a row and then lost one.

“In that same period, we accumulated more points than Millwall but lost three.

“Sometimes it is all about perception. Would you rather have nine points on the board or five points?

“But if you draw five like Millwall did and aren’t losing, it creates momentum.

“It creates the feeling you are doing okay because they went five without defeat.

“I want us to find some consistency, keep the wins coming and turn the defeats into something better.

“Saying that and actually doing that are two different things and we need to work hard to try and achieve it.”

Neil will have Darnell Fisher back from suspension tonight, the right-back having sat out the last three games.

However, Daniel Johnson serves a one-match ban and Ben Pearson starts a spell on the sidelines with an ankle ligament injury.

Patrick Bauer is out for the season after having surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

Fisher’s return will push Alan Browne back into midfield next to Ryan Ledson.

Who plays the No.10 role if Neil sticks with a 4-2-3-1 is then the debate.

Josh Harrop played it after coming on as a substitute during the first half against Wycombe, while Brad Potts is another option.

Tom Bayliss had made the match day squad of late but tends to operate further back.

Left-back pair Josh Earl and Andrew Hughes are still sidelined although both seem to be getting a bit closer to returning.

Neil said: “Hopefully they won’t be too far away. We will just monitor how they are in the next week or so.”