Preston boss Alex Neil was pleased with his selection decisions for the victory at Wigan

Alex Neil admitted he made some tough calls with his selection for Preston’s victory at Wigan but felt he had got them right.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 10th February 2020, 6:26 am
Preston striker Sean Maguire grapples with Latics defender Kal Naismith

The Lilywhites manager left in-form midfielder Josh Harrop out of the starting XI and recalled Sean Maguire to lead the attack.

Andrew Hughes returned at left-back after injury instead of Joe Rafferty.

When later in the game Hughes went off, Neil put Tom Clarke on and switched Darnell Fisher to left-back.

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Maguire’s inclusion was a tactical one as Neil explained after the 2-1 victory – PNE’s first win on Wigan turf for nearly 20 years.

Neil said: “Wigan played a back three and making diagonal runs against a back three is what hurts them.

“I knew Kal Naismith from his time at Rangers and he isn’t a centre-back by trade, while we thought Cedric Kipre was susceptible to runs off the back of his shoulder.

“I thought Seani was the perfect option for us to make those runs.

“What he did as well was make us more flexible in terms of I could flip him and Tom or even flip Scotty Sinclair on the other side.

“I knew we could be flexible within the game without the need to make a substitution.

“It is always difficult when you pick a team, it was hard to leave Josh Harrop out, it was hard to leave Joe Rafferty out because they have been doing really well.

“Hughesy coming back gave us that natural left foot down that side, it helped us to draw out their wing-backs with the shape of the pass.

“I had guys like Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts who didn’t make the squad which was really difficult.

“It’s one of those things, I have got a responsibility to pick a team which I think is going to win us the game. I don’t enjoy leaving people out but it is part and parcel of the game and the job.”

North End’s goals at Wigan came from Tom Barkhuizen and Daniel Johnson.

Barkhuizen put them in front in the fifth minute, with Johnson doubling the lead two minutes into the second half.

Chey Dunkley pulled a goal back for the hosts in the 57th minute and PNE had plenty of defending to do from then on.

Victory lifted Neil’s men into sixth place, above Bristol City who had lost on Friday night to Birmingham.

They are now within five points of Leeds in second place, with their next game being at Stoke on Wednesday.

Barkhuizen and Johnson both hit the 10-goal mark when they netted at Wigan.

Neil said: “When you think DJ is a No.8 or No.10 and Tom is a right-winger, for them to be where they are in the scoring charts is excellent. To get out of this league you need goals and to be a threat.”