Why Preston North End boss Alex Neil is happy for his in-form side to have break from Championship action

Andrew Hughes went off injured in Preston North End's win over Birmingham on Saturday
Andrew Hughes went off injured in Preston North End's win over Birmingham on Saturday

Preston boss Alex Neil thinks the international break has come at a good time even though it means a lull in his side’s play-off push.

The Lilywhites don’t play again until March 30 when they travel to Reading.

Having pieced together a 12-game unbeaten run, the gap in the fixture list could be regarded as being annoying.

But with players nursing injuries and others needing a breather, Neil is pleased to have the break.

For last Saturday’s win over Birmingham he was without Paul Gallagher, Alan Browne, Tom Barkhuizen and skipper Tom Clarke.

Andrew Hughes and Brad Potts were both forced off with injuries during the game

Neil said: “The break has definitely not come at a bad time, I’m certain of that.

“If you look at some of the bodies we have missing at the moment, a break might do us good.

“Gally and Browney have pretty much played every game they’ve been available for but we didn’t have them against Birmingham.

“Tom Barkhuizen was out, he is a player who generally starts for us.

“Andrew Hughes had to come off in the second half, so did Pottsy.

“So we beat Birmingham without some big players.

“Birmingham was always going to be a battle and one we needed to dig in to win.

“Now we have some time to rest and recover, then we will go again at Reading.”

Hughes limped off in the 70th minute on Saturday, with Josh Earl replacing him in the left-back slot.

The 26-year-old has had the most game time of any player in the North End squad this season.

Neil said: “Hughesy went down twice.

“First of all he rocked his ankle but we didn’t want to take him off as I wanted to make attacking substitutions.

“Then he just tweaked his hamstring a little bit so we couldn’t take any risks.

“I’m hopeful it is nothing too serious and the break will do him good.”

The international break will allow Callum Robinson and Louis Moult to further work on their fitness.

Both were on the bench on Saturday after lengthy spells on the sidelines recovering from hamstring injuries.

Robinson got half an hour but Moult was an unused sub.

Neil said: “Callum looked a bit game rusty which you had to expect.

“Louis was a bit unlucky not to play. I was going to bring him on but Hughesy had to come off so I needed to put Josh Earl on.

“Callum needs to get some minutes to get up to speed, as does Louis.”

Around 700 tickets have been sold for the Reading game a week on Saturday.