PNE boss Alex Neil wants winning feeling as he eyes up play-off place

Preston manager Alex Neil has sounded a victory charge as he targets breaking into the top six.

Friday, 23rd February 2018, 5:00 am

The Lilywhites, who host Ipswich tomorrow, are three points shy of the play-offs.

They have lost just one of their last 17 Championship games, however the balance of that run is slightly tipped in the favour of draws.

Neil’s men have drawn nine of those games, including the last three against Brentford, Wolves and Aston Villa.

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Calum Woods is likely to feature at right-back for PNE against Ipswich

The focus is now on adding to the seven wins collected in that period.

PNE’s last three draws are not to be sniffed at by any stretch of the imagination.

They finished with 10 men at Brentford, likewise against leaders Wolves last Saturday.

In midweek at Villa, North End were the better side for long spells. Neil said: “I spoke about Brentford, Wolves and Villa as being three tough games.

Calum Woods is likely to feature at right-back for PNE against Ipswich

“We talked about trying to keep connected with the play-off challenge after those games.

“We’re still only three points behind, which is where we were before them.

“Leading into those games, without knowing how well we were going to play, if you had offered me those results I might well have taken them.

“We can’t pay attention to the teams about us and start looking at the table, hoping that results go our way.

“We have 13 games to go and we need to win as many as we can – we have a terrific opportunity to get into the play-offs.

“There are another four or five teams who will think the same as us.

“But I think with how well we have played in some games this season, how well we have acquitted ourselves and the fact we are getting bodies back, we can cope.”

North End will be without Darnell Fisher who starts a two-game suspension for 10 yellow cards – Calum Woods is his likely replacement.

Paul Gallagher is available after hamstring trouble, while John Welsh returns to the fray following a ban.

How PNE line up in attack will be of note, Neil switching to a 4-4-2 at Villa with Louis Moult and Callum Robinson paired up front.

Said Neil: “I went to watch Villa’s game with Birmingham the other week.

“Birmingham played with one up front that day and it didn’t really work.

“That is why we changed formation and went for two up front.

“It worked for that game but doesn’t mean it will work for the next game or the one after that.

“Some people have been quite critical that I don’t change system but we have done it a couple of times this season – I will do what I think is right for the team.”