Preston manager Alex Neil believes his side were mentally fatigued in the recent goalless draw against Nottingham Forest.
That was the message from the Preston boss when he spoke to the Lancashire Evening Post, in the aftermath of Saturday’s encounter.
Forest were left frustrated just a couple of days prior to this match, as they had been denied victory at West Brom due to a controversial late penalty. However, there was further evidence that Martin O’Neill was beginning to stamp his authority on the side.
Despite this improvement, the Reds knew they were in for a tough game at Deepdale. Preston came into the match on the back off an impressive 3-1 win over league leaders Norwich City. This extended their unbeaten run in the Championship and boosted their own play-off aspirations.
However, Neil told the Lancashire Evening Post that fatigue was always going to be a concern after that match. He said: “The Forest game was always going to be a bit of a worry after the exertions of Wednesday night.
“I didn’t want it to be a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’.
“We got everyone on such a high by beating Norwich and I didn’t want this one to be a bit of a damp squib. Although it was a bit of a damp squib as far as we were concerned, we got something from the game.”
O’Neill catches Preston by surprise
O’Neill revealed in his post-match comments that he was looking to catch Preston by surprise with his formation choice. He utilised a midfield diamond in more of a 4-3-1-2 formation which caused Preston numerous issues throughout the match.
Due to the way the game was going, it forced Neil into changing the set-up of his side at half-time. Although, the Reds continued to have the better of the game in the second half, even after this tactical change.
While O’Neill’s tactical switch caught Preston off guard, Neil believes his side struggled with the mental aspect of the game.
“It is about concentration levels and people talk about fatigue. That is not necessarily about the legs because the lads could still run.
“It is mentally and perhaps that caught up with us a bit in this one.”
Is fatigue a valid excuse?
There’s no doubt that Preston failed to reach the same levels they did against Norwich. However, the Reds must be given credit for stifling their attacking threat.
Not only this, but if Joe Lolley’s goal hadn’t been controversially ruled out, they would’ve come away with a valuable three points. Let’s not forget that the Reds also had a demanding game against West Brom just a couple of days before.
O’Neill made the decision to switch things up and utilise his squad. Both Ben Watson and Saidy Janko were completely rested. This kept the team fresh and ready to compete against a physical side. Perhaps Neil should’ve taken the same approach with his team selection.