BY ALAN TEMPLE at Deepdale – Capital City Press
Robbie Neilson has vowed to persist with his philosophy of building from the back – despite seeing a blunder from goalkeeper Neil Alexander condemn Hearts to a 1-0 defeat against Preston.
After rushing from his goal-mouth to collect a wayward through-ball, Alexander sliced a woeful chipped pass across the face of his own box, allowing Joe Garner to head into the net after 66 minutes.
The veteran custodian did get back to punch the effort clear, but the linesman deemed the ball had already crossed the line.
That solitary strike was enough to ensure the bumper band of 1614 fans who made the trip to Lancashire left Deepdale disappointed.
Neilson reckons it won’t be the last time the Jambos commitment to passing out from defence costs them – but he has no intention of resorting to telling his players to “shell it” from tight spots.
He said: “We ask Neil to play football and that will happen – we will lose goals like that through the rest of the season. It is a risk we take and we will get more benefits from it than negatives.
“He will learn from it. If we didn’t want to ever lose goals like that then we would just shell it up the park, but that’s not how we go about our game.
“I spoke to him after it and he’ll take it on the chin. We will go again, and we will keep playing from the back. I’d rather he makes that mistake in pre-season than the competitive games.”
Preston, buoyant ahead of their impending return to the English Championship, flew out from the blocks as a Tom Clarke header was cleared off the line by Hearts’ talented 17-year-old Sean McKirdy.
However, the visitors soon hit back, going close to breaking the deadlock through Osman Sow, with the towering Swede latching onto a lofted pass and fizzing a shot just wide from 18 yards.
Alexander had to be at his best to keep the scores level after the break, making a super low stop to deny on-loan Manchester United forward Will Keane before tipping a Garner header over the bar.
However that good work was undone as his late mistake condemned the Jambos to defeat.