Preston boss Alex Neil rolling up his sleeves for battle at Bolton

Alex Neil has warned Preston that they will have to be back to their best if they are to get the better of Bolton.

The Lilywhites head to the Macron Stadium for Gentry Day in search of their first win for a month.

Bolton frontman Adam Le Fondre

Bolton frontman Adam Le Fondre

While that run included three very creditable draws with Brentford, Wolves and Aston Villa, last week’s defeat to Ipswich saw them turn in their poorest performance of Neil’s reign.

The PNE manager predicts that a tough test awaits them in Horwich, Bolton’s standing in 19th place meaning little.

Neil said: “Bolton are down there fighting for their lives.

“They are very direct in the way they play and are very well organised.

“In the main they have dropped off teams and made it difficult for them – teams have had to break then down.

“Saying that, they did the opposite against Fulham the other week, they high-pressed and went after them.

“They have managed to go to some difficult venues against good teams and get results.

“We should not be fooled by any means into thinking this should be easy game, it will be anything but.

“It will be a really tough match.

“Bolton drew 1-1 against Fulham and 0-0 with Norwich, both very technical teams who can break you down.

“They deserve huge amount of credit for being that well organised.

“In their side they have a couple of individual match winners.

“The boy Sammy Ameobi has been excellent at times, Adam Le Fondre has popped up with a couple of goals.

“We will have to play very well if we are to beat them, we will have to at our best.”

Bolton have taken four points from their last two games, a 1-0 home victory over Sunderland preceding the goalless draw at Norwich.

They have beaten Sheffield United and Bristol City since the end of December and held Fulham to a draw.

Like North End, Bolton sold their top scorer at the end of the January window with Gary Madine joining Cardiff in a £6m deal.

Madine had scored 10 goals this season, Ameobi the next highest with four.

Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson regards 25-year-old Ameobi as being a key figure in their battle to stay clear of the bottom three.

Chorley-born Parkinson said: “I’ve had a good chat with him about becoming a bigger influence in the group.

“Obviously because of his talent players look up to him but more and more in the dressing room he’s one of many geeing the lads up and demanding more, demanding higher standards.

“That’s the next part of Sammy’s development. We need that from everyone.

“That attitude has been first class and we’ll need it again in what will be a very competitive game against Preston.”

The sides shared a rather forgettable goalless draw at Deepdale in November.

That halted a run of four defeats for North End.