Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Preston midfielder slides in for a challenge with Swindon's Lee Marshall

Preston midfielder slides in for a challenge with Swindon's Lee Marshall

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With one game left of the season, Preston North End know exactly what they need to do away at Colchester next weekend.

Get a victory and they are back in the Championship, no ifs, buts or maybes.

This week, Simon Grayson will have them focused on the task in training and then it is down to 90 minutes next Sunday on the pitch.

I’m sure that in January when North End could not buy a win for love or money, they would have snapped your hand off had they been offered this position.

They have earned the right to challenge for automatic promotion after some good runs of form at different stages of the season.

Earlier in the campaign they had a good run of wins, then there was that spell of keeping clean sheets.

When they drew those two games against Gillingham and Port Vale, it was always likely that things would go down to the last game.

There is no reason why PNE cannot do the business at Colchester.

They have got back on the winning track in the last two games and take an 18-game unbeaten run into the final day which is impressive to say the least.

Their away record is very strong too, with 12 wins on the road so far.

They have won away at some really tough places this season, a few which spring to mind are Bristol City, MK Dons, Bradford, Peterborough and Chesterfield.

In Joe Garner, they have a striker who is the best in the division and back on form if the last two or three games are anything to go by.

He got player of the year in League One last week, an award voted for by managers in the division.

That speaks volumes when managers who have been on the wrong end of his goals have put the tick against his name.

Garner’s ratio is one in two at Preston – impressive to say the least.

This season, the ratio is even better with 26 goals in 40 appearances – a few of those games he was on the bench.

Just think how many goals Garner might have scored had he not had that long spell out injured? I would wager he would be pushing early to mid-30s by now had he played the full season.

Every credit to the lad and to the medical staff at Preston to have got him back from his operation in such good shape.

They did not rush him, he had a couple of games on the bench to ease back in and now Garner and the team are feeling the benefit.

He has never struggled with fitness or sharpness since he came back which is down to the shape he kept himself in during the injury.

Garner is still running around after 90 minutes on the pitch with the same sort of energy he would have had he come on as a 90th minute substitute. So how do North End approach the Colchester game? In my view, they should treat it as a normal game, prepare just the way they do any other week.

They must play the game and not the occasion.

The fans will play a big part. With 3,000 making the trip, it will be about a half-and-half split in the ground and the PNE supporters will make plenty of noise.

Unfortunately I have had to pull out of Simon Grayson’s charity game at Deepdale on Wednesday evening.

Darlington are in the play-offs against Spennymoor that night, so I’ll have my Darlo coaching hat on instead.

I hope it is a great night at Deepdale.