Josh Harrop learning all the time, says Preston boss Alex Neil
Josh Harrop finally made it into double figures when he started Preston's crucial win over Sheffield United.
The Bramall Lane clash was the midfielder’s 10th start in Championship action – he has been used in the main from the bench since the early weeks of the campaign.
Harrop had a big hand in the 1-0 win – it was his shot which Blades keeper Jamal Blackman could not hold. Alan Browne was first to the loose ball and he netted from six yards.
Former Manchester United reserve Harrop was used in a role behind the two strikers to start with.
When PNE reverted to a 4-2-3-1 during the first half he played off Sean Maguire, with Callum Robinson moving to the left wing.
In the 3-5-2 system which they employed in the second half, he was the forward point of the midfield trio.
Harrop had not started a game since the 1-1 draw with Birmingham on January 20.
Since then, the 22-year-old had come off the bench in 12 games.
So was it a big shout for Alex Neil to start him in the Bramall Lane clash?
“Not really because he had looked really lively in recent weeks,” said PNE boss Neil.
“Josh seems to have more of an understanding now about what I’m asking him to do.
“That’s not going to happen overnight with a young lad.
“Like a lot of the other lads going forward, Josh didn’t have his best game – I’ve seen him do a lot better.
“But he was involved in the big moment of the game.
“He had the good shot which the goalkeeper couldn’t hold and Browney got to first to score.
“Our play going forward wasn’t the smoothest but we still managed to cause some problems.”
Neil has mainly turned to Harrop as an impact player from the bench this season.
Although he was probably the marquee signing of last summer, Harrop had played just once for United, on the final day of last season when he scored in a 2-0 win against Crystal Palace.
An injury in pre-season limited his build-up and he was in and out of the side in the early stages.
Harrop spent November and December on the bench before getting a run of starts at the beginning of the year.
With Preston needing to beat Burton at Deepdale on Sunday to have a chance of making the top six, Harrop’s creativity could well play a big part.