Preston North End squad knows rotation is not an option over Christmas

Alex Neil is hoping his stretched Preston North End squad can carry the load of a hectic Christmas and New Year period.

The in-form Lilywhites start a run of four games in 10 days when they head to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

It is a time of year when the PNE boss would try and keep players fresh by mixing things up from game to game.

But with 16-year-old academy winger Ethan Walker needed to supplement the bench for the win over Millwall last time out, Neil will have to go with what he has got.

Tom Barkhuizen is second when it comes to minutes played for PNE this season

“We go into this period knowing that we are not maybe at full strength but that the lads who are playing for us are doing very well at the moment,” he said.

“We’re hoping they can manage that load because there’s a lot of work coming up. 
It’s going to be tough to be at our maximum level in each game because that’s what you need at this level to win games.

“We’d like to be able to do a little bit in terms of rotation but we’re really short on 

A lack of options from the bench meant that Neil chopped and changed during the 3-2 victory against the Lions, with players changing positions all the time as PNE got over the line at Deepdale.

“We had to rotate personnel a lot just to try and get a foothold in the game,” said the North End manager, whose side have lost just one of their last 12 games in the Championship.

“The difficulty is you know what tool you need for the job but sometimes the tool isn’t there.

“Each player has got a particular set of strengths they play to and my job is to try and make sure I put those strengths together. It’s much easier when they’re all 
available but what we’ve had to do is find a way to adapt.

“The players have got to adapt and do a different job that might not be their first port of call.

“It might not be their main strength but they can 
certainly do it and they’ve done that really well in recent games.”

The injuries could have really knocked PNE off their stride. But victory over Millwall moved them up to 15th in the table and closer to the top six than the relegation zone after a poor start to the season.

“It just shows how well these lads have done with all these injuries,” Neil said.

“Sometimes it does create, not a siege mentality because we’re not against anybody, but there’s a togetherness where it’s all hands to the pump.

“Confidence, getting back to what we’re good at and different things like that have been important and some players have really come into form.”