Selection headache of the best kind for PNE boss

Alex Neil admits he faces his toughest selection choice yet as Preston boss for the clash with Millwall tomorrow.

Friday, 12th January 2018, 5:00 am

Neil rested five regulars for last week’s FA Cup tie against Wycombe yet the Lilywhites sailed through to a 5-1 win.

Ben Pearson, Ben Davies, Chris Maxwell and Jordan Hugill were left at home, while Tom Barkhuizen was only an unused substitute.

All will come back into the fray at The Den as North End target a successful away day.

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Ben Pearson will return to the Preston side at Millwall

Neil, who yesterday made Hartlepool striker Connor Simpson his third signing of the window, said: “This team selection is probably one of the most difficult this season.

“We have a number of lads available and on form. The strategy which we go into the game with will determine what the team is.

“We have players we can put in if we decide we want more possession of the ball.

“If we want to make it a more open game, a bit more end to end, we have a certain type of player.

Ben Pearson will return to the Preston side at Millwall

“It is not necessarily who is playing the best or who is the better player.

“Fans automatically look at a player and say, ‘Technically he is excellent so he is the better player’.

“But that particular player might lack the attributes of some other lads.

“There is no ‘better player’ if you like, there are different types of players.

“After analysing Millwall we’ll come up with a strategy which we believe to be the best way to win the game.”

PNE head to London in good form, having lost only one of their last 11 matches.

That solitary defeat was the New Year’s Day home reverse to Middlesbrough.

Neil said: “Our target is to win the next game.

“Every game that we win gets us closer to our goal of getting into the play-offs. However, there are 20 games left and there is no point being in the play-offs just for the next two games –the key is to be in the play-offs after 20 games.

“We don’t want to be those nearly-rans or also-maybes.”

On the transfer front, 17-year-old Simpson put pen to paper on his move from Hartlepool yesterday.

North End have paid an undisclosed fee for the 6ft 5in centre-forward.

Neil said: “I don’t think there are too many of those types about.

“I think the last time we went and got somebody in a similar situation it was probably Jordan Hugill and look what happened there.

“So all the signs are good, he’s one we will take a bit of time with and develop.”

Meanwhile, Neil missed out on the Championship manager of the month award for December, with Derby County boss Gary Rowett winning it.