MX23RW : Tuesday, January 22 10:55:44

Neil delighted as injury-hit Preston hold Villa

Neil delighted as injury-hit Preston hold Villa
© Reuters
Neil delighted as injury-hit Preston hold Villa

Alex Neil said Preston's 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa is the proudest he has been of his players since becoming North End boss.

Preston had nine players sidelined due to injury for the clash at Deepdale and when Tammy Abraham put Villa ahead on the stroke of half-time with a close-range header, things looked bleak.

But the mid-table outfit dug deep and bundled home a 61st-minute equaliser – Manchester City loanee Lukas Nmecha's effort deflected in by visiting defender Ahmed Elmohamady.

They could not grab a winner, although Tom Barkhuizen did hit the post, but that did not stop Neil saluting the determination and grit of his players to snatch a point against promotion-chasing opponents.

"Since I've been here, we've put in a lot of important performances in big games but for this one, against a side that has expectations of being in the Premier League, everything came together," explained Neil.

"When you look at our starting line-up and the young players involved, this is probably as proud as I've been since I came here.

"The effort, the quality we showed and our approach to the game were all excellent. The only disappointing thing is that we didn't win the game, as I thought we deserved to win.

"I spoke at length to them before the game about not being victims in this game just because of the amount of injuries we have.

"But the players rolled up their sleeves and showed what they can do, particularly in the second half, and I am really pleased with that.

"All you can ever ask of your players is that they give everything they've got and that is what happened."

Contrastingly, Villa boss Dean Smith did not view it as a point gained at Deepdale as a third draw in five Championship matches leaves them five points adrift of the play-off places heading into 2019.

"I'm disappointed with our performance," said Smith, whose side could have grabbed victory at the death when Birkir Bjarnason lashed over the bar from close range.

"We did not deserve to win based on the amount of big chances that we gave away. I thought that defensively we weren't great, and on the ball also.

"We played well in the first half in certain elements but every time we got forward, the ball was turned over and they created a chance.

"They created numerous chances with simple balls over the top and we didn't deal with that. I know we have issues with defenders out injured and we had three right-backs playing, but we have to deal with this type of play better.

"They've had big chances but so have we, in the late stages. We had a great chance right at the end with Bjarnarson, for example."


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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Leeds UnitedLeeds28166647301754
2Norwich CityNorwich28158552361653
3West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom28148657352250
4Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd28155846291750
5Middlesbrough281211531201147
6Derby CountyDerby2813784035546
7Bristol City2812883529644
8Hull City28117104135640
9Swansea CitySwansea28117103732540
10Blackburn RoversBlackburn28101083741-440
11Birmingham CityBirmingham2891274033739
12Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest2891273932739
13Aston Villa2891275145639
14Queens Park RangersQPR28116113439-539
15Stoke CityStoke2891183335-238
16Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds2898113345-1235
17Brentford28810104339434
18Preston North EndPreston2889114345-233
19Millwall2878133444-1029
20Wigan AthleticWigan2885152841-1329
21Rotherham UnitedRotherham28510132746-1925
22Reading2858153143-1223
23Bolton WanderersBolton2857161842-2422
24Ipswich TownIpswich2839162248-2618

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