PNE have all to play for

John Welsh commits to a sliding tackle when Preston played promotion rivals Brentford earlier in the season
John Welsh commits to a sliding tackle when Preston played promotion rivals Brentford earlier in the season
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Dave Seddon’s press view

If you like your football calm and predictable, then the League One promotion and play-off race won’t be for you.

Things might look quite sedate at the moment, with Wolves and Leyton Orient sitting pretty in the automatic promotion slots – Wolves now living up to their pre-season tag of title favourites.

There is Brentford – managed by the ultra confident Mark Warburton – in third place, then Preston tucked in just behind.

The play-off berths are completed for now by Rotherham and Peterborough.

If your glass is half empty from a North End perspective, a crack at the play-offs is as good as it will get.

Six points shy of an automatic promotion place, Wolves with two games in hand – so too Brentford – suggests making the top two might be on the tricky side for PNE.

Pick up your half-full pint pot though, and things don’t look quite as cut and dried. There is still a race to be run in my book, admittedly one where the Lilywhites will have to show Mo Farrah-style stamina and pace.

The sides above North End will drop points, so too will Simon Grayson’s men.

It is just a case of keeping the draws and defeats down to an absolute minimum.

What must be kept in mind is that all the sides in the top six have games remaining against one another.

North End go to Brentford on Good Friday and before that, host Peterborough.

Leyton Orient have Brentford and Wolves to play, Wolves welcome Rotherham to Molineux.

And just look at the fixture list for Sheffield United who are steaming up League One on rocket fuel.

The Blades come to Deepdale either a week on Monday or a week today depending on the result of tomorrow’s FA Cup tie with Charlton. After their trip here, Nigel Clough’s men host Wolves, then in early April come three fixtures in a week which could have a big bearing on how things look at the top.

They have a trio of home games on the bounce against Brentford, Orient and Rotherham.

If United don’t make the top six themselves, then they are at least going to have a big say in what happens.

For now, North End just have to concentrate on themselves and see how far that carries them. The play-offs are pretty much nailed on – they have a 17-point cushion over Swindon and Walsall in seventh and eighth, and aren’t going to slip backwards.

They must just keep looking up, keep believing that the top two are not out of reach.

However things play out, sadly there will be an empty seat at Deepdale where Dick Clegg once sat.

A well known face on the schools’ football circuit, Dick passed away this week after illness at the age of 70. For more than 30 years, Dick was secretary of the Preston Schools’ Football Association.

Hundreds and hundreds of youngsters in the area got the chance to represent the town teams thanks to his efforts and years of dedication.

Many schoolchildren in Preston got to play at Deepdale because of him.

Dick organised the Preston Schools’ Finals which were played, more often than not, on North End’s turf.

It was through those finals that my contact with him came.

He would be on the phone to the Evening Post sports desk, ensuring that the games got publicity and coverage.

It was a labour of love, Dick having plenty on his plate as he made sure things ran smoothly.

Games in the rounds leading up to the finals got delayed, he had to chase schools for team sheets and results. But in the end, everything would fall into place.

He probably wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Once the finals had been played – often over the course of a couple of days – Dick would turn up at the LEP with team pictures and details of how the finals had gone.

Many, many tributes have been paid to him since news of his passing on Wednesday night, from those taught by him at Cuthbert Mayne High School and those players who played in the town teams.

One in particular caught my eye, a North End fan recalling how much he looked forward to Mr Clegg’s lesson on a Monday morning because the first 10 minutes involved an analysis of PNE’s performance from the weekend!

Grassroots football needs people like Dick Clegg who give up their time and put all of their energy into making sure others enjoy sport to the full.

Another Prestonian moves seats for a better view, another to remember on Gentry Day in April.