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Defensive injury crisis has eased for Preston ahead of trip to Norwich City

PUBLISHED: 15:05 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:05 23 November 2017

Former Norwich City boss Alex Neil returns to Carrow Road with his Preston team on Saturday. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Former Norwich City boss Alex Neil returns to Carrow Road with his Preston team on Saturday. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Preston’s injury issues have started to ease ahead of manager Alex Neil’s return to Carrow Road on Saturday.

North End brought an end to a run of seven matches without a win with a 2-1 success at high-flying Bristol City on Tuesday night, having suffered a defensive injury crisis.

With centre-back Sean Maguire and Greg Cunningham suffering long-term injuries earlier in the campaign, fellow defenders Ben Davies and Darnell Fisher had also been missing in recent weeks, with Tom Clarke yet to feature this season.

However, Davies and Fisher played all of the win at Ashton Gate, with Clarke making his first appearance of the season as a late substitute.

Former Canaries boss Neil switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the game and deployed different tactics to try and protect his returning players.

“I thought we deserved to win,” Neil said. “What we did do is display different tactics and a different formation to what we’ve done previously. We managed to get a few players back which is good but I just felt the full throttle that we’ve been playing previously would have been too much for the returning players.

“We were much more disciplined and much more in our shape and I thought the lads deserved the win, they played very well and deserved the three points.”

With striker Jordan Hugill also returning from suspension and midfielder Daniel Johnson brought back into the team, Preston inflicted just a second defeat in 18 games on Bristol, thanks to goals from Paul Gallagher and Callum Robinson.

“Darnell Fisher and Ben Davies were fantastic,” Neil continued, speaking to North End’s website. “I know some people will be sick of me saying it but when you lose key players it does affect your side. We managed to get a couple of those key players back and they made a big impact for us.

“We had all of the chances in the first half apart from one and that came from a header that we missed and then the ball bundled about in the box – they managed to get a strike at it but Ben Davies did what good defenders do by getting himself into the position to block it.

“We asked Gally (Gallagher) to tuck in on the right hand side which is different to what we’re used to so far this season but I just felt in recent weeks we’ve been a bit toothless up front. Jordan (Hugill) has been playing that role on his own so I thought we could do with a partner for him.

“I thought it worked okay, it might need a bit of work but equally we managed to score two goals. It’s frustrating that we didn’t keep a clean sheet that the defending merited as I thought our defending was great.”

Neil’s team sit 12th in the table ahead of their trip to Norfolk, three places and two points better off than the Canaries, who are without a win in their last five games.

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