Dave Seddon’s Press View

Paul Gallagher celebrates scoring the first goal  in the win at Bradford when PNE went on the front foot

Paul Gallagher celebrates scoring the first goal in the win at Bradford when PNE went on the front foot

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Squeaky bum time it is then – as things stand, PNE’s automatic promotion hopes lay in the lap of their final three games against Notts County, Swindon and Colchester.

Three victories and the four-year stay in League One is over. Anything less and favours will have to be sought from others to stop MK Dons finishing in second place.

The nine-point target is based on the assumption Milton Keynes will win their remaining three games.

Karl Robinson’s side have Doncaster (h) on Tuesday, Rochdale (a) on Saturday and then finish off with Yeovil (h) on Sunday week.

Current form suggests they will win all three, having won six and drawn one of their last seven.

Take nothing for granted though – who would have thought that Yeovil would have beaten Sheffield United and Swindon since their relegation was confirmed?

This is not the time to focus on others, North End’s attention must be solely on themselves as they seek to keep destinty in their own hands.

Clearly the first thing which needs addressing, an urgently, is this inability to hang on to leads.

There have been nine times this season when PNE have drawn league games from winning positions.

In five of those, the equaliser has come from the opposition in the last 10 minutes.

Barnsley’s leveller last month fell only a minute or two outside of that time window, as did Leyton Orient’s equaliser in January.

Equalisers have come from Bristol City and Sheffield United earlier in the game than the closing minutes.

The win for Bradford at Deepdale came after North End conceded in the 86th minute, having seemingly hauled themselves back into the game with a Joe Garner equaliser.

Crawley beat them 2-1 with an 87th-minute winner.

The boot has been on the other foot when North End have levelled themselves late on against Notts County, Crewe and Doncaster. That home game with Donny, you could argue, fell into both categories.

North End led, then conceded twice in the last 10 minutes, before Jermaine Beckford struck a 94th-minute equaliser.

Conceding late on has become increasingly costly, the Gillingham and Port Vale games seeing a five-point lead over MK eroded to just one.

While that is all focusing on the negative, it must be said that Preston have proved themselves more than capable of seeing games out.

Take the away wins at Scunthorpe Coventry, Gillingham, Leyton Orient, Bristol City, Yeovil, Peterborough, Chesterfield, Oldham, MK Dons and Bradford or example.

All those were won without the opposition scoring, an impressive run to say the least.

There have been eight league games at home when Preston have won and not conceded.

So it can be done and perhaps that point needs emphasising. Returning to the leads they have let slip, fingers get pointed in a couple of different directions.

Simon Grayson gets it in the neck from some, others look at the players, while there are those who think it is a collective responsibility between players and coaching staff.

We have all seen the team drop deep to the point when they are on top of their own penalty box.

Whether that is an instruction from the bench or natural instinct on the pitch when on the back foot, you could argue both.

Speaking to Grayson after these last two games, he was adamant the instruction was not to drop so deep.

I thought part of the problem at Vale Park on Friday night was a lack of second-half possession, rather than dropping back to camp deep around their own box.

When the ball is not being kept higher up the pitch, in particular midfield but also up front, that will inevitably lead to pressure.

Looking through my notes from the Vale game, I wrote down just one chance after Preston went 2-1 in front.

That was a 68th-minute shot from Callum Robinson which Vale keeper Chris Neal held low down.

Once the home side had made it 2-2 there was a late rally from North End, Daniel Johnson’s stoppage-time shot which whistled over the bar the only decent chance.

The Preston side does clearly have the players blessed with the ability to take the ball into attacking areas and create chances.

So without being totally gung-ho, that would suggest they are best to get on the front foot. It worked so well at Bradford on Easter Monday, 1-0 soon becoming 2-0 and then 3-0.

It goes without saying that you need a solid shape at the back and that no team is ever going to let you dictate play from start to finish.

Three huge games ahead, I’ll say enjoy them but the prize on offer at the end suggests enjoyment will just be one of many emotions on display!