Unchanged side has been crucial factor for Preston North End says Alex Neil

Andrew Hughes has been part of an unchanged Preston side in the last three game
Andrew Hughes has been part of an unchanged Preston side in the last three game

Preston boss Alex Neil says consistency in selection has been a rare luxury afforded to him in recent games.

Neil has been able to name an unchanged starting XI for the last three games, the first time that has happened this season.

That settled side has taken seven points from nine, with victories over Queens Park Rangers and Stoke, followed by last Friday night’s draw with Derby County

Only once before had North End gone unchanged this season, with the team staying the same for the games against Aston Villa and Rotherham over Christmas and New Year

Said Neil: “It has been nice to keep the same team. We’ve been able to put some more experience in there lately which helps.

“Not too long ago I picked one of the youngest teams Preston have had and played the youngest player they’ve had in a league game.

“In the last few matches we have shown what we are capable of and it’s been a pleasure watching them.”

A pleasing aspect of the last few games has been North End’s defensive record.

The win over Stoke and the stalemate with Derby were their first back-to-back clean sheets of the season.

Tempering that slightly was the fact the Derby game was the first they had not scored in at Deepdale.

Neil said: “The back four have done very well.

“Both full-backs have come on in their game – Darnell Fisher and Andrew Hughes have done very well. I think that over the last few games, Hughesy has put his game together and played really well.”

Neil could well go same again with his team selection at Bolton on Saturday.

The players will have had good recovery time since the Derby game, Neil reporting no fresh injuries from that 
one.

“We’ve been magnificent in the last three games but we have to make sure we keep that going,” said Neil.

“There is still a lot of work to do with the squad and we want a strong run.

“We have got a batch of five or six games coming up where if we can perform well and pick up a lot of points, then anything can happen in the last 10 matches.

“That is our challenge and we are looking forward to it.”

Saturday’s derby at Bolton is followed by the visit of Neil’s former side Norwich City to Deepdale next Wednesday.

North End then play host to Nottingham Forest three days later, before making the trip to Millwall on February 23.

They start March against Bristol City and then comes the derby at Blackburn.