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Preston boss Alex Neil refreshes his players ahead of a busy few weeks

Alex Neil believes that last weekend’s rest for some of his Preston regulars will be of great benefit to them in the weeks ahead.

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Tom Barkhuizen has started every league game for North End this season

Tom Barkhuizen has started every league game for North End this season

The PNE boss admits to having put big demands on some players this season and leaving them out of the FA Cup victory at Wycombe was a much-needed chance for them to have a break.

Neil left Tom Barkhuizen on the bench, the wide-man having started every league game this term.

Ben Pearson, Jordan Hugill, Ben Davies and Chris Maxwell were spared the trip.

Hugill had started 24 of Preston’s 26 Championship games, with Maxwell an ever-present between the posts.

Pearson and Davies had started most games when available.

Neil said: “I demand a lot from the players. Jordan in particular tends to be up against two central defenders every week which is physically very challenging.

“He puts his body through the wringer whenever he plays.

“Tom Barkhuizen has done a hell of a lot this season, Ben Pearson and Ben Davies have been key players for us.

“This break will have helped them mentally as much as physically.

“You could see a bit more of a spring in their step during training this week.

“It is about making sure that they re-focus and get ready for the next game.

“I have got a good group of lads here who are desperate to do well.”

Neil thinks the flexibility of the North End squad will be important as they try to make a push towards the top six.

He says the club have been forward-thinking with their recruitment, both before his arrival last summer and since taking the reins.

In this window, North End have bought Louis Moult, Billy Bodin and Connor Simpson, continuing the buying model the club have leaned towards in the last few seasons.

Said Neil: “A lot of work had gone on before I came here, we have a group of players which have very different strengths.

“That is a great thing. If you have three of the same type of player, the strategy remains the same and all you are doing is swapping one in for another.

“Look at us in the middle of the park, we have six midfielders who are very different in how they play.

“That allows us to have a different approach for different games.

“We’ve got different types of full-backs, different centre-halves, different strikers.”

Meanwhile, PNE’s FA Cup visit to Sheffield United has been confirmed for Saturday, January 27.

The league game against Nottingham Forest, which was due to be played that day has been re-arranged for Tuesday, January 30.