`

Sean Gregan’s exclusive column: Neil’s boys have taken a step in the right direction

Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen battles for the ball
Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen battles for the ball

This time last week there was a bit of doom and gloom around Preston North End after another defeat.

So what a difference two good results in the space of a few days make, with four very welcome points put in the bag.

The 4-0 win against Wigan followed-up the 3-3 draw at Aston Villa which was an absolutely crazy game.

They could have won it, could have lost it at the end but got a point which had they been offered it when 2-0 down, they’d have snatched your hand off.

Whether that was a good point or not at Villa Park, probably depended on the result of the Wigan game.

The big victory over Wigan meant they could look back on Tuesday’s draw as a positive one.

Four points in two games after previously taking only five from 11, is hopefully a sign that PNE are grinding into life.

The focus now has to be on preparing for the games after the international break in a bid to come out of those with a good number of points.

The clean sheet against Wigan will have meant a lot to Alex Neil.

After being so sturdy at the back last season, to have conceded so many goals this campaign was a big worry.

Any successful team has a stack of clean sheets behind them and the fact North End had only one shut-out to their name previously this season, shows where the root of the problem has been.

They played 4-2-3-1 on Saturday and it looks like that is their best formation, one in which they look more comfortable anyway.

To beat any team 4-0 is pleasing, but to do so against Wigan was impressive to say the least.

Wigan had started the season well, play some good football, and I’ve always been impressed by Paul Cook as a manager.

But North End rose to the occasion and played well in all areas of the pitch.

There were another two goals for Callum Robinson and that’s six for him this season.

With players missing through injury this season, it’s been up to others to step up to the mark.

Robinson has been the main man up front and it is good to see him playing with so much confidence and a lot of ability.

Lukas Nmecha has also come back into the team in the last two games and done very well.

When young lads come on loan from Premier League clubs, it can take them time to settle despite how much ability they have.

Playing in the Under-21s is a world apart to what the Championship is.

They have to get used to the relentless nature of the fixture list, that fact that managers get sacked for poor results.

It is a big learning curve and you rarely see players adapt straight away.

Nmecha is two months into his loan spell at Preston and he’ll now be more used to how defenders mark him, when to make runs.