Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column

Tom Barkhuizen watches his shot bounce against the bar in the defeat to Leeds at Elland Road

Tom Barkhuizen watches his shot bounce against the bar in the defeat to Leeds at Elland Road

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Preston’s defeat to Leeds United was disappointing with it coming on the back of that superb 5-0 victory over Bristol City in midweek.

It just shows how football can play with your emotions.

North End would have been on a high after putting five past the Robins but within a few days will be thinking their play-off hopes are over.

Looking at the table, you’ve got to say that the top six looks out of reach.

PNE would probably have to win all their games and hope those above them lose three or four.

If that is them out of the running, they must aim to finish the season as strongly as possible – no thoughts of the holidays yet.

The higher up the table North End finish, the better it is for attracting players in the summer.

When Simon Grayson meets his transfer targets in the close season, a strong finish in seventh, eighth or ninth wouldn’t be a bad bargaining tool.

Players like to have their egos massaged and if Simon can say, ‘We just missed out on the play-offs this time but you can help us get there’, it will be what they want to hear and a challenge they will be tempted to take on.

If Preston are to miss out on the top six, they can still be pleased with the season they’ve had.

They have added a lot more goals to their game 
and to have challenged teams with far bigger budgets is quite an achievement.

This season – and a decent finish to it – can be used as a platform for next season.

If they keep hold of the current squad and add to it, I see no reason why they can’t push again.

It was always going to be difficult for them at Elland Road because Leeds are strong at home and have 
the fans right behind 
them.

But it is a demanding crowd there, I played for Leeds and know what they demand.

If you are the away team and score first, the amount of expectation among the Leeds fans can work in your favour.

The pressure can build on them and they get edgy in their play.

Had North End taken one of those early chances, who knows how the game would have turned out?

As it was, Leeds survived that opening spell and 
went on to get the first goal themselves.

Looking at who could be in the Championship next season, it might be that the division is not as strong 
as it has been this time around.

I don’t see any of the three clubs who come down being as strong as Newcastle United are.

Newcastle kept hold of some of their best players and then added quality to it in the shape of Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie.

If it is Sunderland coming down, they need a re-build and could take time to do that – my old boss David Moyes isn’t having the best of times there.

Middlesbrough might be okay because their squad is similar to the one which went up a year ago.