Preston North End boss backs striker Sean Maguire to find his goal touch
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The Republic of Ireland international has not scored since December 10, a run of 16 matches.
In the defeat to QPR at the weekend, Maguire twice hit the woodwork – an early shot struck the post and then he put a second-half header against the bar.
Neil has started him 31 times in the Championship this season, strong in the belief that the forward fits in with the way he wants PNE to play.
Lilywhites manager Neil said: “It has been testing for Sean but I would like to think the amount of times I’ve played him shows the amount of faith I have in him.
“Sean puts in a great shift for the team and I think he has got goals in him. Recently he has been really unfortunate – the QPR game summed it up for him.
“His strike in the first half was as good as he could have hit it, then with the header, he timed his run brilliantly.”
Neil does not believe the barren run is a confidence issue for Maguire.
He thinks goals will come again for the 25-year-old who on Saturday hopes to face his home-town club Luton at Kenilworth Road.
Said Neil: “What I expect from players is to go out and do your best – if you do your best I can’t ask anymore. Sean does that and that is why he plays nearly every week, he’s just been unfortunate.
“As a striker and a forward in general, you go through spells where you score goals and then through dry patches.
“You hit the post, hit the bar, then what happens is one goes in off your backside and you go on a little run.
“At the start of the season he scored three in six, there was no problem with Sean then. On Saturday until we went two up front, I thought he was excellent.
“His movement was good, his link-up play – in terms of retaining the ball and popping it off – was good.
“Sean’s movement down the sides caused problems, he kept things alive for us.”
Maguire has been with PNE since July 2017.
Arriving on the back of a rush of goals for Cork City, he netted 10 goals in his debut season at Deepdale.
That was despite missing four months of the campaign after hamstring surgery.
Maguire scored three goals last season, the first half of it hindered by injury.
In August and September this season, he found the net against Wigan, Brentford and Birmingham.
Then came a goalless run until the Fulham game before Christmas. He has made 16 appearances since, playing either on the left or as the main striker.