Preston North End boss Alex Neil aiming to plug leaks in meeting with WBA
Preston's quest to climb off the bottom of the Championship will be given a stern test by free-scoring West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale tomorrow.
The clash is a meeting of the division’s highest scorers and the leakiest defence, the Baggies having scored 22 goals and PNE conceding 18.
Alex Neil’s men slipped to the foot of the table after the 3-2 defeat at Sheffield United last week.
However, North End boss Neil saw signs in the League Cup exit to Middlesbrough in midweek which pointed to a recovery.
What that will hinge on is plugging the holes at the back and a return to keeping clean sheets – something they last did in the league on the first day of the season.
Neil said: “Tuesday night’s performance was good, even if we didn’t get the result. We are getting closer to what I think is our strongest starting XI.
“Getting Ben Pearson back in the team was important, Alan Browne playing further forward was good and Ryan Ledson got his second start in a row.
“Against Middlesbrough we controlled the ball a lot and created chances.
“The worry we have got is decisions defensively are still causing us issues.
“That was another game when we scored two goals and didn’t manage to win it.
“When we have got the ball our movement and quality is better going forward.
“Equally when we play that way it leaves us vulnerable at the back if we get countered.
“It is making sure we tidy that up behind us. What I don’t want to do is take our attacking threat away.”
Darnell Fisher returns to the squad tomorrow having been suspended in midweek.
Another reinforcement at the back will come in the shape of Ben Davies who was rested for the Middlesbrough game.
In terms of going forward, Neil could well stick with the midfield and attack on show in midweek.
Scoring goals has not been a problem at Deepdale, they’ve scored in every home game.
An issue for Neil though, is the trend of conceding soon after scoring.
“What you try and do after scoring a goal is for the next five minutes you look to turn the ball,” said Neil.
“The problem we have got at the moment is that we haven’t really got anyone to turn it to.
“If we did that the ball just comes straight back at you.
“Even the pace we have got at the moment is off the flanks rather than down the centre.
“Concentration might be an issue after scoring.
“The relief of scoring a goal might mean you take your foot off the gas for a little bit.
“That is something we want to improve on, we need to find a way of staying solid.”