Preston boss Alex Neil was frustrated by his team’s defeat to Birmingham City

Preston North End's Declan Rudd holds his head in hands after his howler against Birmingham
Preston North End's Declan Rudd holds his head in hands after his howler against Birmingham

Alex Neil felt the lack of belief among his Preston team was the biggest disappointment of their defeat to Birmingham.

While it was Declan Rudd who made the headlines by dropping an absolute clanger for the Blues’ opener, North End boss Neil looked it things from a wider angle.

The 3-0 loss brought their nine-game unbeaten run to an end, an under-strength PNE side finding the going tough as the game went on.

Neil said: “Probably the most disappointing thing for me was towards the end of the game, we didn’t look like we had the belief.

“I wouldn’t say we gave up because we didn’t but we didn’t have the belief to get back in it.

“That hasn’t happened to me since I’ve been here and that is my biggest frustration.

“Every game we’ve played, even if we have got beat, we have normally had that bit of rallying to get ourselves back into the game.”

Rudd had the indignity of seeing his mistake a minute into the second half go viral on social media.

Maikel Kieftenbeld’s ball into the box bounced through to the keeper who bent down to pick it up.

Whether he took his eye off it or not, the ball bounced through the keeper’s legs and trickled into the net.

There was no throwing of Rudd under the bus from Neil or his team-mates, it should be noted that Alan Browne ran back down the pitch in order to console him.

Neil said: “I don’t think there is too much to say, as a professional player you know when you have made an error.

“He has the character to deal with it, if you are a player at this level you have to have character.

“You are regularly playing in front of 20,000-30,000 fans and need to perform.

“If you don’t, there is no hiding place on the pitch.

“He needs to put this to the back of his mind and move on.

“I think everyone needs to be lifted to an extent but we are certainly not going to make a scapegoat of him.

“He’s made a mistake, cost us the first goal but we can go and repair it by getting the next goal which we didn’t do.”

North End were missing seven first-team players from the squad – Tom Clarke and Ben Pearson ruled out on the morning of the game.

Clarke broke his nose in the Middlesbrough game and had breathing difficulties, with Pearson’s ongoing thigh injury flaring-up.

Josh Earl suffered a quad strain in the first half and came off at half-time.

PNE’s top scorer Callum Robinson had an operation on Saturday morning to repair the torn hamstring tendon he suffered against Blackburn.

Robinson is expected to be out of action for around three months.