Preston North End boss Alex Neil pinpoints reason for poor recent show on the road

Boss Alex Neil believes the shock of hearing a crowd cheer against Preston could have contributed to arguably the worst performance of this season from his team.

Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 12:30 pm

North End – like every club across the land – has grown accustomed to playing games behind closed doors since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only twice over the past nine months have PNE played in front of a crowd.

The first time was in front of a test pilot audience of 1,000 at Carrow Road when North End drew 2-2 against Norwich City in September.

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Fans were able to watch Luton’s game with Preston at Kenilworth Road

On that occasion North End took the lead twice before being pegged back by the Canaries

Unfortunately, any kind of crowd at sporting venues was soon banned by the Government as they continued their fight to contain coronavirus.

However, recently a limited number of home supporters has been allowed for clubs who are in areas which are operating under tier one and two restrictions.

That meant North End played in front of a crowd for the first time in four months against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road earlier this month. It was the Hatters who scored first and the sound of a 2,000-strong vocal home support celebrating the strike may have come as a shock to the system after so long playing behind closed doors.

Neil’s men went on to concede a further two goals to go down to hugely disappointing 3-0 defeat.

With Preston as a city remaining in tier three for the time being, North End will not benefit from any kind of home support at Deepdale for the foreseeable future.

At least one silver lining in the short term is the fact that their trip to Pride Park to take on Derby County on Boxing Day will be played in an empty stadium.

“I thought the Luton game caught us completely cold,” Neil said.

“Particularly the first goal. I think as soon as that went in the boys realised the whole stadium was against them.

“It was the first time they had felt that in nine months.

“Up to that point before they scored, we had actually performed okay but after that our performance dipped and them having fans seemed to effect us.

“The players will probably say that the fans had no effect on their performance but from where I was standing, I am not so sure about that.”