Alex Neil not ruling out Preston play-off push despite 10-point gap



Posted Saturday, February 02, 2019 by PA

Alex Neil not ruling out Preston play-off push despite 10-point gap

Preston manager Alex Neil refused to rule out a late-season bid for the Championship play-offs despite remaining down in 16th spot following their 0-0 stalemate with Derby.

The Rams enjoyed the best of the first half at Deepdale with Harry Wilson twice hitting the woodwork.

But the tables turned after the break as Preston upped the tempo, with Darnell Fisher and Paul Gallagher both denied by fine Kelle Roos saves.

It means the hosts stay in the bottom half with just 16 games to play but for Neil, the 10-point gap to the last play-off spot – currently occupied by Derby – is not insurmountable.

“Things are positive right now and going in the right direction,” he said.

“With what we have got now in terms of the squad I would fully expect us to finish the season strongly.

“I have said to the players that I’m certainly not writing off the play-offs.”

He added of Friday’s performance: “I think our use of the ball at times was a bit lacking.

“The second half was better from us and if we had got that first goal we felt we would have gone on to win the game and I felt we should have.

“We had plenty of shots on goal and crosses in to the box, so we had enough chances, but we lacked that little bit of luck or quality and something to go our way.

“We just need to take our chance when it comes.

“I thought we were great, I thought the two centre-halves were spectacular and I thought Ben Pearson, particularly in the second half, was great.”

Wilson came closest for the visitors when striking the crossbar in the 11th minute, while he also hit the post just before the break as Frank Lampard’s side turned the screw.

It took until the 49th minute for North End to register a shot on target, with Jayden Stockley and Jordan Storey among those being kept at arm’s length with efforts.

But the visitors were grateful to Roos after the break, with Brad Potts also stinging the keeper’s palms as County were forced to cling on in the closing stages.

It ensured Lampard’s charges missed out on the chance to go fifth, not that the away point proved too much of a disappointment.

“It was a hard-earned point, we had the better chances in the first half, Harry Wilson especially,” said the manager.

“The second half was tough and we were up against it in the first 25 minutes. We brought on fresh legs, but it was a difficult game and we have to be happy with the point.

“Preston have a good team, they have a good mix and play good football. They are difficult opposition.

“This is a tough place to come. They are very physical and we were short on second balls but credit to Preston, they came out and put us under pressure.

“We defended well and put our bodies on the line, which we need if we are to be successful.

“Credit to the back four, especially the centre-backs for all the balls they headed away. They kept us in the game and got us the point, we needed that.”

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