Striker Ched Evans' link-up play is a big plus for Preston North End manager Alex Neil

Alex Neil thinks Ched Evans can bring a previously missing ingredient to Preston North End’s attacking play.

Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 8:00 am

Lilywhites manager Neil was impressed with how the striker played the ‘link man’ role against Rotherham last Saturday at Deepdale.

Evans scored PNE’s goal in the 2-1 defeat, the club having announced his permanent signing ahead of kick-off.

Neil told the Lancashire Post: “I thought Ched led the line as well as we have had in a while in terms of his link play.

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PNE frontman Ched Evans

“I don’t ask him to run the channels, he’s just not that type of player.

“If you get the ball in about his feet, he gets people joining in off him.

“He needs to make sure that when the ball comes up he is winning a lot of the 50/50 duels and that is exactly what he did. When he does that he makes it reliable for the midfield players to go and support.

“If you are putting it forward and the ball keeps getting cleared and put back over your midfield, naturally as a midfelder you stop gambling – then you don’t get enough bodies forward.

“Every time the ball went forward to Ched, he kept it alive and it would only drop two or three yards in that area.

“Then what happened is that our lads could pick it up and go forward from there.”

Evans was initially signed on loan for the rest of the season from Fleetwood Town at the start of January.

It was a controversial move due to his previous off-field issues but North End chose to press ahead with it.

Having signed seven players on loan by the end of the transfer window, PNE moved to turn Evans’ loan, and that of Greg Cunningham, into full-time deals.

Championship clubs are limited to having five loan players in a matchday squad, with Preston reluctant to have two of the loanees sat in the stand doing nothing.

Evans and Cunningham have signed deals until the end of the season.

It is very likely that Neil will have Evans leading the attack in Friday night’s derby clash with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park (7.45pm).

The game has been brought forward a day for broadcast live on Sky Sports.

The Rotherham game was Evans’ first PNE start after substitute run-outs against Bristol City and Reading.

Said Neil: “Ched’s display from the start of the game to the end was pretty much the same. He was physical and reliable.

“I thought he gave us a good platform to play off and his goal summed him up.

“He was really aggressive, got in and challenged the goalkeeper, shifted his feet well and scored.

“Ched could have had a penalty late on too.”

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