Preston North End boss Alex Neil points to fine margins after Barnsley draw

Daryl Horgan rues a missed opportunity at Oakwell.
Daryl Horgan rues a missed opportunity at Oakwell.

Alex Neil believes it’s a case of fine margins for his side at the moment after Preston’s goalless draw at Barnsley on Boxing Day.

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Alex Neil leaves the field disappointed at the final whistle.

Alex Neil leaves the field disappointed at the final whistle.

North End impressed against the Championship strugglers before the interval with Jordan Hugill hitting a post.

But after the break it was a scrappy affair at Oakwell as both sides were forced to settle for a point that extended PNE’s unbeaten run to eight games.

“It proved to be a frustrating afternoon but it’s another point,” said Neil.

“We’ve won a lot of games 1-0 this year and it’s because we’ve scored that chance when we get it.

Tom Barkhuizen breaks forwards against Barnsley.

Tom Barkhuizen breaks forwards against Barnsley.

“On this occasion we didn’t and then what happens is people get frustrated about the performance.

“It seems to be that if we win, we play well, if we don’t, people think we’re rubbish. I don’t think that’s the case.

“If we were going to win the game it was first half, we were quite creative and had chances.

“Second half we didn’t show enough.”

The major boost for North End on the day came with the return of Greg Cunningham to the match-day squad.

The Irishman was an unused substitute having been named on a PNE team sheet for the first time since picking up a serious hamstring injury at Derby back in August.

Plans for Cunningham to get some match action had to be shelved however when another player back in the side, Calum Woods, had to be replaced with a dead leg late on.

“Greg coming back is a big lift for us,” said Neil.

“I’d liked to have got him on but unfortunately Calum was struggling and the last substitution was Alan Browne.

“We made two aggressive substitutions trying to get into the game more and then I had to make that last change.”

Another player who had to be substituted was Paul Gallagher, the experienced midfielder complaining of a tight calf before being replaced on the hour.

“I thought when I took Gally off we lacked that creativity that he brings us,” Neil said.

“I brought Stephy Mavididi and Josh Harrop on to try and give us that impetus but it didn’t change the flow of the game.”

Elsewhere, Tom Clarke and Callum Robinson were not involved at all at Oakwell.

The latter had a bruised foot while Neil was taking care with his club captain who is not long in to a return from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

“I work off Tom in terms of how he’s feeling,” said the North End manager.

“His insertion point where they operated on was tender so that was a real concern for me.

“I didn’t want to risk that so he had to come out.”