Goalkeepers' glove battle is a close call for PNE boss Alex Neil

Alex Neil admits there is little to choose between Preston's two goalkeepers Declan Rudd and Chris Maxwell.

Saturday, 24th February 2018, 5:00 am

Rudd is in possession of the gloves at the moment having started the last six games.

But North End boss Neil was quick to point out how big a contribution Maxwell had made to the team.

It has only been since the middle of November that both keepers were available to him.

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Declan Rudd (left) with Chris Maxwell

Rudd damaged his thigh in pre-season and had a couple of setbacks in his recovery.

He then had a patient wait on the bench, finally getting a game in the 5-1 victory over Wycombe in the FA Cup.

Maxwell returned to play the next two league games but Rudd came in for the cup tie at Sheffield United and has stayed in since.

Neil said: “Declan is a good goalkeeper as is Maxi.

Declan Rudd (left) with Chris Maxwell

“Earlier in the season Maxi had been performing very well for us and was a large part of why we were doing so well.

“If I’m being honest, there is not much between the two but they are very different goalkeepers.

“Maxi is very much on the front foot, he wants to come out to try and snuff things out.

“Declan is more subdued, he has got different strengths in that he is a bit bigger and a bit more rangy.

“It is a difficult one, if we could combine the two we would have the perfect keeper.

“Both are excellent in their own right, in different spells they have been excellent.”

Rudd was impressive in the midweek 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, making three good saves in the first half.

Only Villa’s controversial penalty in the second half beat him.

Said Neil: “Declan had a good match against Villa, when he was called upon he made some good saves.

“There was one in the first half when the boy Bjarnason cut in and hit an unbelievable shot which Declan got a really good hand to.

“Having watched it back on Thursday morning, it was a better save than I thought at the time.”

Neil, meanwhile, says the current push for the play-offs has a different feel to it at PNE than at his two previous clubs who he led to promotion.

Hamilton and Norwich had both tasted promotions to the top flight before his time in charge there.

“I think the determination and feeling of togetherness is very similar, probably even more so here,” said Neil.

“At Hamilton, we had been promoted before and then went back down.

“The Norwich players had been in the Premier League and knew what it was like to get back up there.

“The boys here have not been there so I get a feeling of a real desire to put that right.

“I love working with them, their attitude is first-class.”