Preston North End boss Alex Neil delighted with how the switch to a midfield diamond worked in the victory at Barnsley

Preston North End manager Alex Neil was pleased with how the switch to a midfield diamond worked in last night's win over Barnsley.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Daniel Johnson celebrates scoring Preston's goal with Tom Barkhuizen and Josh Harrop

Neil played a 4-4-2 formation at Oakwell, the midfield made up of Ben Pearson at the base of the diamond, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson on the sides and Josh Harrop at the forward point.

Up front he went for pace with Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair leading the attack.

Rarely has Neil played that way in his time at North End but it paid dividends in South Yorkshire as North End won 3-0 with Barkhuizen scoring twice either side of a Johnson goal.

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Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd and Joe Rafferty after the 3-0 win at Barnsley

Neil said: "We played a diamond with two split strikers.

"At different clubs I've been at I've played a variety of different systems. I have got my preferred one but there are other ways to play.

"I have played a diamond before when I was in Scotland, my Under-20 team played it all the time because I had two top quality strikers.

"The way we utilise wide players here, they are key so it is difficult to fit them in if you play two up front.

Alex Neil waves to the Preston supporters during the win at Barnsley

"I think it worked really well against Barnsley. It might be something we can look towards in the future and it worked great."

Neil had worked on the shape in training in the two sessions leading up to the game and was impressed with what he had seen from his players on the training ground.

He felt matching Barnsley's diamond up was the right way to go and so it proved.

"Matching teams up can sometimes be the way to go, depending on the opposition sometimes strategy versus strategy is a good option as well," said Neil.

"It is always a gamble, if I match them up or go strategy v strategy and it doesn't work, it is a bad decision.

"I have to go with what the feeling is in my gut, what I have seen on the videos I have watched and what I have seen of my players when we are working on it.

"I saw all the signs on Sunday and Money in training that we were more than capable of playing that way."

While North End's attacking players took the plaudits at Oakwell, Neil was pleased with the clean sheet.

It had to be worked for, with Declan Rudd making three good saves in the first half.

Neil said: "The clean sheet was pleasing for Declan and pleasing for the defence, I thought we defended well.

"There was one in the first half when Ben Davies stepped out and the lad got slid in behind him, Declan put it round the post.

"That was just teething problems with the system really, getting to grips with it.

"After that, we handled it well."