Preston North End boss Alex Neil takes a swipe at competition rules that forced cup decision

Alex Neil has stressed that the first team being priority was behind Preston’s decision to forfeit the Lancashire Senior Cup tie at Blackburn.

The PNE manager felt he had insufficient numbers to play the game when injuries, suspensions, international calls and selection for today’s league clash with Reading were taken into account.

Alex Neil (above) was not allowed to field suspended duo Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson in the Lancashire Senior Cup

Alex Neil (above) was not allowed to field suspended duo Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson in the Lancashire Senior Cup

North End did request a change of date but the fact they have midweek matches for the next three weeks made that difficult.

Competition rules state that six players in the match squad must have professional contracts.

Neil said: “I’ll clear this up, the rules of the Lancashire Cup are ridiculous for me.

“Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson are suspended for first-team action but they aren’t allowed to play in this.

“How am I supposed to keep them match fit if I can’t play them in a tournament which, unless you are from Lancashire, you won’t even have heard about.

“Those two couldn’t play and we’ve got Alan Browne who has got a niggle.

“Two of the lads were away on international duty and only came back on Thursday.

“If I’m looking at changing my team for the Reading game and need players for that, I’ve not much surplus.

“Blackburn’s Under-23s which would have played, won their league last year.

“We haven’t got an Under-23s and I’m not going to send my Under-18s up there to be lambs to the slaughter.

“When it gets to the stage where it might jeopardise our first team, it is a no-brainer for me.

“I know some people might say, ‘It is a message, he is trying to show he hasn’t got enough players’ but that is rubbish.

“The simple fact is that the first team is priority. What would be said if one of the lads got a niggle and was ruled out of a league game?

“We are already a bit light, at the top end where we’ve got two long-term injuries and in midfield there are potentially three guys who aren’t going to be involved against Reading.

“It’s pretty straightforward and people can read too much into things – there aren’t any hidden agendas.”

The two injuries up front which Neil refers are to Sean Maguire and Billy Bodin.

Maguire is recovering from a hamstring tendon issue and Bodin tore a cruciate ligament on the eve of the season.

While it will be into 2019 before Bodin is back, Maguire should be returning soon.

Said Neil: “Sean is not too far away now, maybe it will be after this little batch of games we’ve got coming up.

“Billy is doing okay, the big test for him is mentally.

“There will be optimistic spells when he is doing well and others when he can’t see light at the end of the tunnel.”