Preston North End boss Alex Neil spells out importance of Royals’ visit

Alex Neil will look for Preston to put a ‘frustrating’ start to the season behind them when they face Reading tomorrow at Deepdale.

The PNE manager reasons that his side should have more points on the board than they have, but now is the time to do something about it.

Lukas Nmecha could return to the Preston squad against Reading tomorrow

Lukas Nmecha could return to the Preston squad against Reading tomorrow

Reading’s visit is the first of six Championship games over the next three weeks, with a League Cup clash in there for good measure too.

“It’s been a bit frustrating and a bit disappointing so far,” said Neil.

“There were certain games we could have got more points from.

“We have tried to add a bit more attacking creativity at the top end, and the balance with the other end hasn’t been struck properly yet.

“The Stoke game we could have won, at Norwich we hit the bar before they scored, we were the better team at Derby before we conceded.

“At this level it really is fine margins.

“We could have been six points better off and people would be talking about what a good start we’d made.

“But we haven’t had a good start, we have five points and we need to win some games.”

In terms of team selection for the Royals’ visit, Neil could have Lukas Nmecha back.

The striker, on loan from Manchester City, missed the game with Bolton before the international break because of a knee injury.

Said Neil: “Lukas should be okay. He was struggling with his knee and missed part of training last week.

“But he has done most of the sessions this week and should be fine.”

Neil’s main issue will come in midfield, with Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson suspended.

On top of that, a calf strain could rule out Alan Browne.

Neil said: “At the start of the season people might have said that we were top-heavy in midfield. When it is a vital area of your team – midfield is your engine room – you need to make sure you are very well stocked.

“We will have enough lads in there to get a job done but naturally you would like more players available.

“Whatever area of the pitch it is, players who go into the team have a responsibility to showcase what they can do.

“If they do that, it makes it impossible to leave them out.

“The only thing I’m a little bit concerned about is that we don’t have a natural ‘6’.

“But we have coped with that in the past.

“We have worked on a few different things and it is easy to do it on the training ground.

“It is when you go out on to the pitch and have to do it against a team who wants to stop you, that it is difficult.

“You have to do it in front of the fans, perform as well as you can to try and get the three points.”