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Preston North End boss Alex Neil expects a tough derby with Wigan Athletic

Former Preston striker Joe Garner joined Wigan in August
Former Preston striker Joe Garner joined Wigan in August

Alex Neil is looking forward to seeing Preston go toe to toe with an ‘energetic’ Wigan side at Deepdale.

The North End manager envisages a typical derby clash in which there will be much at stake.

Neil’s men need the three points to haul themselves off the bottom of the table, while a Wigan win could move them back into the top six.

Adding a sprinkling of spice to the whole thing is the return of Joe Garner.

He joined the Latics from Ipswich in August, before that having been at Rangers.

It was Rangers who Garner left Preston for in August 2016 after scoring 57 goals during a three-and-a-half year stay.

Neil said: “I’m expecting Wigan to be like a lot of teams who have come up.

“Promoted teams are on a bit of a crest of a wave.

“They are used to winning games and have a really strong mentality.

“Wigan have recruited well, signed a few players and spent a few quid.

“I think they will come here with real confidence, they have given everyone a game.

“They are energetic, in your face,it will be a typical derby game.

“I think it is a good game for us going into the break.”

Wigan’s recruitment which Neil references, was quite extensive.

Josh Windass’ £3m move from Rangers caught the eye, the forward having been on North End’s radar in January.

Garner came for £1.25m, while they dipped into the loan market heavily.

Said Neil: “Wigan have some quality players in their team.

“The boy Josh Windass off the right is a good player for them, as is Michael Jacobs off the left.

“They’ve got Nick Powell who is real quality and can hurt you.

“We know Joe Garner very well – he can lead the line or it can be Will Grigg who makes wee darts in behind.

“We will need to keep them quiet because we have good players ourselves at the top end of the pitch who can get us goals.

“Scoring goals hasn’t been our issue recently, it’s been the ones we’ve conceded.”

Garner’s return will not be his first since leaving Preston .

He twice played against PNE for Ipswich last season.

Having arrived carrying an injury, the 30-year-old took a few weeks to force his way into contention at Wigan.

After two appearances as a substitute, Garner has started the last three games.

But it might be that Grigg gets the nod to lead the Wigan attack at Deepdale.

Wigan shared a goalless draw with Swansea at the DW Stadium on Tuesday night.

Last Saturday they were beaten 1-0 at Norwich but had enjoyed wins over Bristol City and Hull prior to that.

Leam Richardson, No.2 to Latics manager Paul Cook, is pleased with how they have adapted to the league.

Richardson said: “If you’d told me that after 11 games we’d be up there and looking ahead to a local derby at Preston, we’d have snapped your hand off.”