Dave Seddon’s PNE press view

Jermaine Beckford

Jermaine Beckford

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After nine months of graft and 45 league matches, Preston North End’s automatic promotion challenge comes down to 90 minutes against Colchester.

It has been a fascinating ride since August and the last instalment comes alongside the A12 at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

There is no doubt that a full range of emotions and feelings will grip North End supporters as Sunday lunchtime nears.

A mixture of excitement, hope, nerves, pride and fear is likely to swish inside stomachs and around minds.

Nerves are understandable, that is all part of being a fan and a sign of the enormity of the occasion.

What I am sure of on Sunday is that those nerves will give way to strong and vocal support come kick-off.

There will officially be 3,000 Preston fans inside the ground, probably a few more.

Had the away allocation been double that, it would still have sold out.

The away support has been excellent this season – the statistics bear that out.

In the 22 away league games to date, a total of 28,937 PNE fans have been in attendance.

That averages out at 1,315 per match, which is decent going to say the least.

Factor into those figures some of the midweek trips which have been absolute stinkers for supporters.

Gillingham, Leyton Orient and Swindon were played on consecutive Tuesday nights, a sequence which stretched many pockets.

Latterly, there have been the visits to Port Vale and Notts County on a Friday night and Tuesday evening respectively.

As well as the league road trips, there was travelling to do in the cup competitions too.

Rochdale, Middlesbrough, Havant, Oldham, Notts County, Walsall and Sheffield United have been visited in midweek in the Capital One Cup, FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Sunday’s journey to Essex is the second longest of the season for PNE in League One, only a couple of miles shorter than Gillingham was.

But how the stakes have shot up since that wet and windy Kent night in October.

The burning question is, can Preston get over the finishing line on Sunday afternoon?

As Simon Grayson has been at pains to point out at all of his recent press conference, it is in their own hands.

There is no rocket science involved, no, ‘If we do this, they do that’ malarkey.

If Preston win, they will play Championship football next season.

Draw or lose at Colchester and the initiative swings to MK Dons who host Yeovil.

PNE need to be positive, stamp their authority on the game and get on the front foot.

Their strength lies going forward, any side containing an in-form Joe Garner and Jermaine Beckford would agree with that.

With the right service from midfield, and the defence staying tight, there is no reason why North End cannot extend their unbeaten run to 19 games by reason of a victory.

Twelve away wins this term suggest that Preston enjoy being on the road.

They won 12 on their travels in the 1995/96 promotion campaign under Gary Peters.

When David Moyes guided them to the 1999/2000 title at this level, a club-record 13 away wins were recorded.

Equal that number on Sunday afternoon and Simon Grayson can be assured of joining Moyes, Peters, John McGrath, Nobby Stiles and Alan Ball Snr in the list of managers who have overseen PNE promotions in the last few decades.

Returning to the fans’ theme and there is no doubt that they have their part to play.

The ‘12th man’ cliché is one often trotted out but never has it been more apt now.

Turn the nerves into song, stay behind the team and hopefully everyone can be in a good place come 2pm.

Defence mechanisms have sprung up all week, with worries over the record in front of the Sky cameras and that North End traditionally don’t do things the easy way.

Actually, if you delve back over the years, PNE have won their fair share of Sky games.

As for doing things the hard way, has any promotion ever been easy for any club?

Fingers, toes and everything else crossed, we can be talking about Colchester in the same light as Cambridge, Orient (twice), Wrexham and Fulham as places where Preston have clinched promotion.

Wrexham was admittedly by default in 1978 as PNE did not play there to go up but they needed the Welsh side to draw with Peterborough in order to win promotion.

Strong hearts, minds, stomachs and bladders are the order of the day on Sunday. Best of luck to all involved!