Preston North End boss Alex Neil on his change of tactics in first half of weekend defeat

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Alex Neil has explained why Preston North End went for a more ‘conservative’ approach in the first half of their defeat to Nottingham Forest.

The Lilywhites lost 1-0 at Deepdale in their first game of 2021, beaten by a penalty from Lewis Grabban which was controversial – it looked like the Forest striker hit the ball twice after slipping as he stepped up.

Both before the penalty and after it, North End struck the bar through Tom Barkhuizen and Ben Davies.

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They also forced Forest keeper Brice Samba into two good saves, their second-half show in contrast to the first which was uneventful to say the very least.

PNE boss Alex Neil makes his point to referee Tim Robinson at the end of the game against ForestPNE boss Alex Neil makes his point to referee Tim Robinson at the end of the game against Forest
PNE boss Alex Neil makes his point to referee Tim Robinson at the end of the game against Forest

PNE boss Neil said: “What we have found this season with us is that sometimes our aggression in the first half of games has gone against us.

“That has been either with trying to get the first goal too early or where it is trying to press the opposition too much.

“For us, we have been a bit more conservative in the first half, and having made a few changes bringing in young Tom Bayliss, Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts into the team, it was good to feel our way into it.

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“I didn’t think the first half was particularly great and we needed a lot more.

“Our two wide players did a lot better in the second half and I thought our second-half performance was enough to merit a win.

“I didn’t think Nottingham Forest got any better from their first-half performance but we certainly did.”

PNE were unhappy with Forest’s penalty, in that they were adamant Grabban got a double touch on the ball, hence it should have been disallowed.

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Neil felt the award of the penalty was 50/50, Darnell Fisher handling the ball as he stumbled in front of Cafu’s shot at the far post.

Said Neil: “I don’t have any issues with the ref’s performance in general.

“Even the penalty itself, some people would give it and some not – you can’t get on your high horse about it.

“It’s the next bit which is frustrating and that has gone against us. I’ve seen it back and he touches it twice.”

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On the injury front, there was a scare for Daniel Johnson when he needed lengthy treatment on his knee but he was able to resume and play the full game.

Neil said: “What happened was as he got his shot away, the lad has come across and caught the inside of his knee with his studs.

“If you’ve ever had that happen to you, it’s quite painful. DJ just had to shake it off and let the pain go away.

“I thought DJ was good all game, as was Sean Maguire.

“They just lacked support in the first half from the flanks.”

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