Preston North End manager Alex Neil has suggested that he has left Josh Harrop out of his starting line-up for tactical reasons over the last few weeks, but that the forward could be in contention to return to the starting line-up this weekend.
Harrop was one of Preston’s standout performers in the month of January, with the forward scoring twice and registering one assist in his six appearances for the Lilywhites last month, but Neil has opted to leave him out of the starting line-up in the last few matches.
That has seen Preston move Tom Barkhuizen out to the right-hand side with Daniel Johnson playing in the number ten position and Scott Sinclair from the left, while both David Nugent and Sean Maguire have started up front – and those changes worked during wins at Wigan Athletic and Stoke City, but Neil’s side missed Harrop’s presence in their 1-0 defeat against Millwall.
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Speaking to Lancashire Live ahead of Preston’s meeting with Hull on Saturday, Neil suggested that he left Harrop out because he wanted to bring more physicality into the side over the last few weeks, but he also hinted that the forward could make a return against Hull.
He said: “The point I’m making is, Josh Harrop is a good player.
“Is it difficult to leave him out? Yeah it is, because he’s a good player and I think he’s got a great future here.
“But equally, the other lads have been performing very well and I think when we went away from home we were harder to beat.
“We won games away from home, which we hadn’t done earlier in the season, and it was the right decision at the time.
“Now, what will happen for Hull on Saturday I’m not quite sure yet – I haven’t made my decision, but he’ll certainly come into contention.”
Harrop has been very unfortunate to have been left out of the squad over the last few weeks, given the levels of performances he was showing throughout the first month of the New Year, and the 24-year-old has been a largely impressive performer throughout the campaign having scored five goals so far in the league.
However, Neil was vindicated in his decision to bring in some extra physicality to the side ahead of Preston’s back to back away matches at Wigan and Stoke, with the Lilywhites managing to claim two potentially vital wins in those matches.
Against Millwall last weekend though, Preston missed the lively and creative presence that Harrop brings to the side in the attacking third, and he could be the ideal player to recall back into the starting line-up against Hull to provide a lift following their defeat last time out.
The Lilywhites have plenty of attacking options at their disposal and Harrop should still have a major role to play for Neil’s side during the rest of the campaign, and the forward could return to the side with a real point to prove on Saturday.