Preston’s 2-0 win at Stoke City means North End now sit just three points off automatic promotion.

North End grabbed a battling victory over the Potters, with Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen grabbing the goals from close range after Stoke twice failed to clear their lines.

Preston still sit sixth in the Championship table, but have now cut the gap to second-placed Leeds United to just three points. It’s still a big ask for North End to finish second, but we’re in the mix with less than a third of the season to go – and that’s all you can really ask for.

Alex Neil. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Alex Neil continues to work wonders with North End; Stoke substitute Sam Vokes cost nine times what Preston’s entire starting XI cost, with Preston continually punching above their weight under the Scot.

North End still aren’t really getting the praise they deserve though, and are still being overlooked by big media in the promotion race. That underdog status probably suits Neil well, but he has now received praise from Michael Appleton.

The former Preston midfielder is now manager of Lincoln City in League One, but worked as a pundit for BBC Radio Five Live on Wednesday night, and took the time to praise North End.

Preston North End’s Manager Alex Neil gives the thumbs up to the travelling fans. (Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Appleton hailed Neil for his ‘incredible’ job at Deepdale, praising the way he has developed players, though the praise over his recruitment seems a little misplaced – many of the players who have thrived at Preston were already at the club, though Neil can certainly be credited for their development.

Appleton noted that Neil turning down ‘bigger’ jobs to stay at Preston speaks volumes of the club, whilst even admitting that his son is a big Preston fan, and was even at last night’s game.

“They did fantastically well to keep him, and he’s obviously very comfortable at the football club,” said Appleton. “He’s done an incredible job with the budget that they have down at Preston, he continually, from a recruitment point of view, brings players in who seem to excel and go on and do well. It’s a great story, obviously I had a fantastic spell as a player there, I really enjoyed my time, it’s a great club. My lad is there, he’s one of the 1000 supporters in the away stand – he’s a big Preston North End fan, so he’ll be delighted. It’s a good story, and the fact that Alex has turned down clubs – probably bigger clubs I would imagine – to stay at Preston says everything you need to know about the club,” he added.

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