‘We were the better side’ – Alex Neil thrilled with Preston’s performance to earn a draw from his Canaries reunion
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Returning manager Alex Neil was thrilled with the efforts of his Preston team to earn a point at Carrow Road.
The Scot was facing the Canaries for the first since being sacked in March after an eventful two years in Norfolk and left with a smile on his face, after his team built on a 2-1 win at Bristol City in midweek.
“Over the 90 minutes, I was delighted with my team,” the former Norwich boss said. “I thought we were the better side in the game, they had some decent chances, Josh Murphy’s chance in the first half, they had the goal which was a little bit of magic from James Maddison and then in the second half they had a header once we restarted play and that was basically all they had in the game.
“We hit the bar, had a great header from Tom Barkhuizen in the first half and had some great counter-attacking moves that we should have done a bit better with. We scored the goal and then Tom Barkhuizen has got the chance going through on the goalkeeper at the end and obviously his touch was too heavy and it ran out of his path.
“But listen, I was delighted with my team, I thought we were excellent in spells and Norwich have got some really good players so you’re going to have to play well to beat them.”
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Neil realised the irony of Maddison, a player he signed from Coventry in January 2016, scoring against him having never played a league game for City under his former boss – who still feels his decision to send the youngster out on loan was correct.
“A lot of people gave me a lot of stick about James but he wasn’t ready at that stage,” the Preston boss continued. “He went out to Aberdeen to get games and the same with Jacob Murphy, who went out to Coventry to get games, and we brought him back when he was ready having done his apprenticeship – and obviously Norwich have reaped the rewards of that.
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“That’s why we signed him (Maddison), because he’s a fantastic player.”
It was Neil who made referee Tim Robinson aware that qualified referee David Thornhill had approached the dugouts to take over as fourth official after injury to linesman Mark Jones caused a lengthy delay – still wearing jeans, after taking off his Norwich top.
“To be fair I’m quite familiar with some of the people down here because I was here for a couple of years and he shouted over to me ‘I’m a referee’,” Neil explained.
“So I made the referee aware because obviously I wanted the game to restart as quickly as possible and he came in and did his duty.
“I said to him, I hope you won’t be making any decisions because that could be a problem for us!”
Thornhill, a diehard Canaries fan who writes a column for the Norwich Evening News, and Neil had also met before.
He added: “I do know him because I know his brother Martin who sort of looked after us when we travelled for away games with Norwich, so it was nice to see him!”