The Lilywhites are without Ryan Ledson when Bolton visit Deepdale this afternoon as he begins his three-match ban on the day Paul Gallagher returns from his suspension.
Ledson was dismissed for a two-footed lunge on Lewis Baker in the League Cup win at Leeds on Tuesday night.
That was the final game of Gallagher’s absence, the 34-year-old having been punished retrospectively for an elbow on Stoke’s Joe Allen in the 2-2 draw at Deepdale.
“I don’t encourage my lads to go around and kick people,” said Neil.
“Our two red cards are individual decisions.
“Ryan’s is a rash challenge and Gally’s come across and catches him with an elbow.
“I don’t think we’re a dirty team. We have got players who like a challenge.
“Ryan, Ben Pearson, Darnell Fisher – they get stuck in and that’s what their game is about to a degree.
“If you take that edge away from some of our players then they’re not going to be as good basically.”
Neil is confident Ledson will learn from what ended up being a dangerous challenge at Elland Road.
“He’ll be really disappointed because that was back-to-back starts for him and now he’s put himself out for three matches and it’s self-inflicted,” said the PNE boss.
“Ryan was really down after the game but I didn’t go in and batter him by any means.
“I just said to him one-to-one, ‘You can’t get away with that anymore’.
“I actually told him not to fly into challenges before the Derby game and leave us exposed, because I know he’s that type of player.
“I probably should have said it again before Leeds!
“I don’t think Ryan ever goes in to hurt somebody.
“It’s a learning curve for him.”
The man usually at the centre of any North End disciplinary discussion, Ben Pearson, has already raced to three bookings, two away from a first ban of the campaign.
Neil is typically blunt about where his midfield enforcer – who picked up 14 yellows last term – needs to improve.
“The problem with Ben is two of his bookings are for his mouth, which he needs to nail shut,” he said.
“That’s certainly something I’ve spoken to him about and I’m hoping there’s going to be a big improvement.
“He’s had one booking for a tackle that he had to make but the other two are really poor.”