Preston boss Alex Neil wants sharper finishing in final six games

Alex Neil is pleased to see his Preston side's possession stats bulking up and is now looking for a better end-product.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 7th April 2018, 7:00 am

The Lilywhites boss has worked on getting a better share of the ball this season, although there is still room for counter-attacking in the game-plan.

Neil was frustrated that a greater amount of possession did not lead to a better outcome in the defeats to Derby and Sheffield Wednesday.

They had 64% of the play against Derby on Monday and 52% at Hillsborough.

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Sean Maguire is expected to be at his best next season

Before the international break, North End won 2-0 at Sunderland with a 64% share of possession. In the 2-1 home defeat to Fulham, a side considered the best at retaining the ball in the Championship, Neil’s men had possession for 49% of the game.

Neil told the Post: “There is no question that we are more comfortable on the ball now.

“What we need to improve on is to create more and better chances from that possession and we need to take chances.

“It is good that we pass the ball well instead of being in a position where we have to sit behind the ball because we aren’t good enough.

Sean Maguire is expected to be at his best next season

“We are playing against teams at the top end of this division and trying to take games by the scruff of the neck, trying to dominate it.

“It won’t always happen for a variety of reasons but that has helped us to get to where we are now.

“The next step we want to take is getting to the play-offs .

“The last two games were a setback but we are ready to go again. Look at the stats for the Derby game. We lost but had better passing accuracy and more shots on goal.

“We dominated individual battles, won more tackles, won more headers – everything but the scoreline. People will say the score is all that matters but as a coach I’m trying to improve every single aspect of our game.”

Neil, meanwhile, has backed Preston striker Sean Maguire to hit his best form next season.

The Irishman returned from injury to score five goals in his first four games but it was not enough to win him the Championship player of the month for March – that went to Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Maguire was unable to find the net against The Owls or Derby and Neil has stressed it will take time for him to be at his sharpest.

Neil said: “Even when Sean was on his hot streak, we were saying that we will see the best of him next season.

“He is not as sharp and as fluid as he was earlier in the season, please remember that he had a bad injury.

“It is great that he has made the impact he has but he will be even better with a 
pre-season under his belt.”