Preston North End boss Alex Neil defends change of system for Reading defeat
Alex Neil did not think that a change of formation was the root cause of Preston's home defeat against Reading which dropped them to 23rd place in the Championship.
The Lilywhites switched to a 3-4-3 for the Deepdale clash but were beaten at home for the first time since Easter.
Neil opted to go with three at the back to try and negate the absence of three holding midfielders.
That is a system the PNE boss has only occasionally used in his time at Deepdale.
“Normally we have a No.6 in front of the back four,” Neil told the Post.
“What we did was to have an extra body in defence – the No.6 was popped back behind to give cover there.
“It’s not that difficult to adapt to, we had worked on it all week in training.
“I didn’t surprise them on the day and say, ‘Listen guys, we are playing with a back three today’.
“We had done the work and knew exactly what we should be doing.
“I don’t think that you can apportion blame in terms of where the goals came from.
“If you look at the three goals we conceded, they are in the middle of the box where your central defenders would be in any formation.”
As has happened in other games this season, PNE made a good start and hit the post through Tom Barkhuizen.
But Reading took the lead, Daniel Johnson’s deflected shot pulling PNE level.
The Royals went back in front seven minutes into the second half before Callum Robinson’s close-range touch on a Josh Earl shot once again restored parity.
However, the home side had no response to Reading’s third goal in the 81st minute.
Said Neil: “This game was important with it being at home and like all of the games we have played in, there was very little in it.
“Had we won, no one would have batted an eyelid.
“We did more than enough to get something but if you are not going to defend well, it will be costly.
“Early on we had two great chances and if one has gone in it would have allowed us to soak up a bit of pressure and attack on the counter.
“But Reading scoring first allowed them to do that and we had to become expansive, forcing people forward.”
After seven league games, North End have five points on the board and only Ipswich are below them in the table.
Tomorrow night they head to Elland Road to face league leaders Leeds United.
Whether the shortage of midfield bodies will have eased by then, hinges on the fitness of Alan Browne who has a calf strain.
Said Neil: “We’ve had the injury scanned and it is not a serious one, but it was enough to keep him out on Saturday.”