Preston North End boss Alex Neil underlines importance of Derby County clash

Alex Neil is not shying away from the importance of Preston North End's game at Derby County on Saturday.

The disappointing defeat at Norwich City on Wednesday night means that the Lilywhites have picked up four points from their opening four games.

Neil had spoken pre-match about how victory at Carrow Road would make it a good start to the season for his side as they look to better last season’s seventh place in the Championship.

Now though, the PNE boss is in no doubts that his side need to get a positive result against Frank Lampard’s side at Pride Park in order to kickstart their campaign.

Ben Pearson cuts a frustrated figure after Preston North End's defeat to Norwich on Wednesday night

“This game has become really important for us now,” Neil said.

“The fact that we didn’t pick any points up at Norwich means we need to go and get some there.

“I’m a realist and I’m not going to mince my words.

“Seven points from 12 would have been a good start but four points from 12 isn’t such a good start.”

Lampard’s appointment was arguably the biggest piece of news in the Championship this summer.

But while the former England midfielder is a new face in the dugout in the second tier, Neil has seen some familiar traits in the way he has set his Rams up in the opening weeks of the campaign.

Derby picked up their second win of the season with a 2-0 victory over Ipswich on home soil on Tuesday night.

“I was at their game the 
other night,” said Neil.

“I’ve seen all their other games too, they’ve been on television quite often.

“It’s different from last year when Gary Rowett was there because his style is different but it’s not too dissimilar to what Steve McClaren and others had done in the years before that.

“They play a 4-3-3 formation, are expansive, move the ball and play in between the lines.

“We’ve played against those types of teams before.”

PNE made the decision not to return north after the Norwich game due to the quicker-than-usual turnaround.

They have instead based themselves at the Football Association’s national football centre at St George’s Park, Burton.

“It means our travelling is limited and will help us get ready for the weekend,” said Neil.

“It’s a great facility and allows us to just focus on the football.”

Paul Gallagher is with the squad but will serve the second game of his three-match ban at Pride Park.

Calum Woods is also still sidelined with the hamstring injury picked up in the League Cup win over Morecambe 10 days ago.