Alex Neil praises Sean Maguire's return to form in Sunderland sweep

Alex Neil praises Sean Maguire's return to form in Sunderland sweep

The Scottish coach praised the Irish striker as he scored his fourth goal in five matches for The Lilywhites.

Danial Kennedy

Alex Neil heaped even more praise onto Preston North End's returning star striker Sean Maguire, as he scored the opener in the eventual 2-0 win over a struggling Sunderland AFC side. 

Need that guy who can put that ball in the net 

It has been a tough season for the Irishman having been ruled out since October with a serious hamstring injury, but surprised many with his early return a fortnight ago and hasn't looked back since. 

He returned with a brace against Bolton Wanderers before goals against Bristol City and Fulham in succession, The Black Cats proved to be the 23-year-old's next victim as he turned in the opener at The Stadium of Light with his uncontested diving header and Neil stated that he is the kind of guy that The Lilywhites have been missing this season. 

"That is five goals in four games for Sean," Neil told his post-match press conference. "It had been the one area we had been lacking at times this season when we are on top and should be finishing games."

"You need that guy who can put the ball in the net and Sean has been that man," the Scotsman added. 

Embed from Getty Images

Difficult platform to play on but did very well 

Preston headed to a snowy Wearside knowing that a win would be crucial to their outside chances of nabbing a play-off place, but only had one real chance to show for their efforts in the first period with Tom Barkhuizen going close despite having the majority of the dangerous place. 

Neil cracked it as they came out for the second period with a tactical tweak that saw Maguire and Callum Robinson swapping positions, it was rewarded with Maguire's opener and only made easier with Jake Clarke-Salter's dismissal. 

The tactical switches success was sealed as Robinson added a second to move them within two points of Middlesbrough in the final play-off spot, and Neil praised the switch despite the adverse weather conditions. 

"We needed to move the ball a little bit better than we did in the opening period," he said on the switch. "So we made a tactical change at half-time, moving Sean to the flank and bringing Callum inside." 

"Sunderland found it really difficult to deal with that because it disjoints the defence," the Scotsman proclaimed. "That helped us, we have used that in a number of games."

"Our main port of call was to come and win the game," the 36-year-old stated. "The only frustrating thing was that it could have been and should have been more - we created a number of opportunities."

"These games are always difficult because you are coming to a team under pressure and are hoping you can perform well enough," Neil concluded.

"It was a difficult platform to play football in but I thought we did that very well."