Preston North End boss Alex Neil insists that Josh Harrop's loan move to Ipswich Town by no means marks the end of his time with the Lilywhites.

Harrop, who signed a new contract with PNE until 2023 in the summer, has endured a frustrating first half to the season having only made five Championship appearances.

Having played 38 times in his first season with the club - the 17/18 campaign - injury problems have cursed the attacker and this season he found himself down the pecking order.

As a result, a loan to Portman Road made sense for both parties and the midfielder heads to East Anglia to try and help Paul Lambert's team in their fight for promotion.

On the move, Neil feels it is a great opportunity for the 25-year-old to show what he can do, as well as the right decision for the good of the player's career.

"Josh is a confidence player, he's one of those lads that - even if he's not maybe had a good game - wants to play the next one," said Neil. "I'm really hopeful for him and for us that he goes and has a really successful loan at Ipswich, does well, scores goals and assists.

"If Josh goes down there, plays 20 odd games, scores six or seven goals and makes five assists for example, we'll be thinking 'happy days, great, he's ready, let's bring him back and see if he deserves to play.

"There's no question that Josh is a talented lad, I just think he needs a run of minutes to make his errors, to learn, improve and be a top player somewhere.

"Josh has been here for three-and-a-half seasons and is sitting at about 27 or 28 starts; that's not enough for a lad of his age.

"I think Josh needs to go and play and be the guy that's relied on to try and effect the game

"And if you look at the guys we've had here that have played the majority of games - the likes of Pearo, Alan, DJ, Callum Robinson - a lot of them went to League One to initially to learn their trade and get those 50 or 60 games.

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"Unfortunately here, in the position he wants to play in, we've had guys like DJ, Alan, Brad, Scott Sinclair and those guys have been really productive for us so it's been difficult for him to get in the team.

"If you look at Scott, in terms of the role I had for Josh this year, Scott has scored eight goals this year and without those goals it would've been tough."

Harrop faced the local media down in Ipswich this week and spoke of his eagerness to get regular minutes - something which was eluding him at Deepdale.

He told the East Anglian Daily Times: "It’s frustrating not to be playing because that’s what we love to do, so the best option was to come on loan and I can’t wait to get started.

"You want to start games, make an impact and enjoy your football, for me, I just want to play.

"I signed a new contract with Preston at the beginning of the season so I’m tied down there for three years.

"With games, consistency comes I say.

"If you don’t get the games you can’t be consistent so hopefully here I will get the games to show I can be."