Simon Grayson has urged his Preston North End players to carry the ‘dream and ambition’ of a top-two place into the final six games of the season.
Automatic promotion for the Lilywhites would require a big swing in results at the top of the table but is certainly not out of reach.
They take on Bristol City tomorrow (3pm), and PNE boss Grayson hopes they can return from Ashton Gate with their top-two hopes still very much alive.
Grayson told the Evening Post: “We know an automatic place is out of our hands and that something major has got to happen for us to go into the top two.
“But why not dream about it and have the ambition still to catch them?
“We saw last year in League One what can happen, in the last minute of the final game of the season.
“No one expected to see Brentford miss a penalty and Doncaster to go down the other end to score a goal which won them the title.
“Football has a strange way of throwing up these quirks and it is important that we keep going.
“Whatever happens, we want to finish the season in a positive way.
“If it is the play-offs, then we need to take some momentum into those.”
North End could at the very least confirm their place in the play-offs tomorrow.
Only Swindon outside of the top six can catch them, and one more point would give an unassailable lead over the Wiltshire outfit.
And if Swindon do not win at Carlisle, then PNE would be in the play-offs irrespective of how they get on at Bristol City.
It will be a refreshed group of Preston players which takes on Steve Cotterill’s side.
Mindful that they had played five midweek games in the last six weeks, Grayson gave his squad an extra day off to recharge their batteries.
He has been trying to keep the side fresh by tweaking it game-to-game in recent weeks.
It is a policy which Grayson could continue tomorrow, with Chris Humphrey and Bailey Wright pushing for recalls after being on the bench for the 1-0 win over Crawley.
If selected, Neil Kilkenny will face his former side, the midfielder having had a largely forgettable two-and-a-half year spell with the Robins.
They let him join North End on loan in November, then settled up his contract so that he could seal a full-time move in the January window.
Grayson said: “We gave the players Monday off, had a good session on Tuesday and then they had Wednesday off as normal before the two days of preparation for the game.
“It’s been a long demanding season, so when you get a clear week sometimes it is nice to freshen the players up, get them away from each other.
“At this stage of the season you are just keeping them sharp physically and mentally.
“You are cutting the minutes on the training ground but still keeping that intensity and focus.
“We have been slightly changing the team around to give players a breather and we might continue to do that.”