Dave Seddon’s pressview

Paul Gallagher

Paul Gallagher

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Preston North End head to Cardiff today for a meeting of the eighth and ninth-placed clubs in the Championship.

When the clubs played at Deepdale four months ago, the Bluebirds were as they are now, eighth in the table.

As for PNE, they kicked-off that goalless draw on Saturday, October 17, as the division’s bottom club.

They had dropped there the night before without kicking a ball, a win for Bristol City in a televised Friday night game the cause of that.

It was a short stay in 24th position, the point earned from a drab stalemate lifting them up two places on goal difference.

The only way has been up since then, the Cardiff draw the first of 41 points collected in 23 games.

Ninth place heading into the weekend represents dizzy heights, indeed oxygen will be needed should North End win in South Wales – that would see them go eighth.

At the start of this month as North End prepared for the visit to Derby, talk was still of securing safety and whether the decision not to sign a striker before the transfer closed could hinder that.

Five unbeaten games later, the last four of them won, the play-offs are featuring in fans’ vocabulary.

Should the Preston faithful dare to dream? Could there be a late run to the top six?

The answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’.

The odds are quite long but teams have been further back then this and still gate-crashed the play-offs.

While there is a chance, why not live in hope and see where the next 10 weeks takes things.

The plan this campaign was for safety and consolidation, so to be thinking of an even brighter outcome at this stage of the season is welcome.

A play-off push will need the Lilywhites to maintain the consistency they have shown these last few months.

In addition, it needs teams above to slip, so things are not exactly in PNE’s control.

It will be pointed out that there are some far bigger budgets above them.

But that could be said of most of the division, it being widely accepted that Preston’s wage bill is the third lowest in the Championship.

No one has a crystal ball to see what will happen between now and May 7 but isn’t it exciting that we can at least be having this discussion?

Give me optimistic, glass half-full talk any day of the week rather than anxious glances at the bottom three.

Publicly anyway, Simon Grayson is keeping a lid on top-six talk.

His message to the squad is to keep focused on the games while letting others do the talking and the maths.

There was a hint from him this week though, that eyes were being cast upwards.

That came in the latest fitness bulletin relating to Paul Gallagher’s hernia. Surgery on the injury was postponed last month, the plan being to delay it until enough points were on board to make North End safe.

A new date has been pencilled in but it could be the surgeon won’t be getting his scalpel out just yet, not until it becomes clearer as to how the season will pan out.

Better to have Gallagher’s craft and guile available for the duration, even if he is in some degree of discomfort.

If you were to ask the midfielder if he minded managing the injury for that bit longer and put up with the pain, we all know what the answer would be.

North End’s rise up the table has seen Grayson answer one or two of this critics.

In among the many plaudits he has received in his three years in charge, some criticism has been thrown his way.

I wrote some months ago in this column about the myth that he has struggled previously in this division.

A seventh-place finish with Leeds and keeping Blackpool safe does not define a struggle in my book.

Huddersfield’s slide down the table in the later months of his time in charge there, probably coloured some people’s view.

That spell was thrown at him earlier in the season when North End were finding points hard to come by.

The way the campaign has panned out would point to that early challenge being more of a case of a squad of players trying to find their feet and not quite believing in themselves, rather than a manager struggling.

Finally, best wishes must go to Stevie May as the striker starts the long road back to fitness after knee surgery.

The picture he posted on Instagram of his knee after the operation was enough to put you off your dinner but the scars and stitches were a reminder of just how serious the injury was.