Simon Grayson had only a battling goalless draw with MK Dons to celebrate his first anniversary in charge of Preston last night.
The stalemate at Stadium:MK dropped North End further off the automatic promotion pace and at the moment, the play-offs look to be the most likely route to an attempt at getting back into the Championship.
Not that Grayson is giving up on catching the top two, although he acknowledged that his team most find a ruthless edge going forward if that is going to happen.
Missed chances cost the Lilywhites last night, with Keith Keane hitting a shot against the post and Joe Garner going close with a couple of headers.
At the other end, they were indebted to Jack King for a second-half clearance off the line after Daniel Powell had rounded Declan Rudd.
Grayson said: “We just have to try to win as many games as possible, just hang in there.
“If teams slip up, we have we have to stay on their coattails.
“We would love to be a little bit closer and we will try to win the next 15 games and try to get automatic promotion.
“If it is not that, we have to secure a place in the play-offs.
“But we are not giving up the ghost of trying to get into that top two and catching the sides above us.”
Grayson started with Garner and Kevin Davies up front in the absence of Craig Davies who sat the game out with a tight hamstring.
Later he introduced Stuart Beavon from the bench for his first appearance since December.
“We tried to win the game, you can’t fault the players for their effort, how they worked and how disciplined they were in not conceding,” said Grayson.
“It was just when we got into that final 20-25 yard area we didn’t have the composure, quality and end product that we really needed.
“That is a slight problem which we have had in terms of creating a lot of chances in the last few weeks but not just managed to finish teams off.
“We have some good firepower all over the team but maybe it was a little bit of quality in the end product which was missing, maybe a bit of ruthlessness and know-how of the game.
“The pitch was difficult but we got the ball down enough times to play.
“I thought we handled the pitch as well as we could do, and for a 0-0 it was an entertaining game.
“While we had some good passages, we had to keep the door shut at the other end.
“And Jack King did his job really well with that clearance.”
Grayson thanked MK Dons for the seventh minute applause in honour of Sir Tom Finney. “It was brilliant and it sums up what Sir Tom was all about,” said the Preston manager.
“Throughout the country, supporters have been showing their appreciation for an absolute legend and gentleman.
“It was fantastic to see and I’m sure his family will have been very proud of what has happened.”