Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column
Preston North End produced a spirited display at Middlesbrough but sadly it was not enough to bring a point '“ or all three '“ back from the Riverside.
It seemed like Boro were nervous and at this stage of the season, with the huge prize of automatic promotion maybe just a few games away, that is not a surprise.
For any side pushing for promotion or a title, results and not performances, count most when you are getting into April and May.
As a lad, I was a Boro fan – I come from a place called Billingham, which is close to Middlesbrough.
Nowadays, I tend to look out first for the results of the clubs I have played for – PNE, Leeds, West Bromwich and Oldham – before seeing how Boro have done.
Defeat to Middlesbrough was the second reverse in a few days for Preston after they lost to Fulham at Deepdale.
Maybe the season is just catching up with them a bit, I don’t know.
I’m told this was only the third time this season that they have lost back-to-back games in the league.
That is decent going and shows that North End have been consistent.
Every credit to the players and staff for that and, fingers crossed, they can get back on a winning track against MK Dons at Deepdale on Saturday.
MK Dons are a team in big trouble and got a spanking from Rotherham at home the other day.
They have found it a lot tougher in this division after pipping PNE for automatic promotion last May. Bristol City have also spent a lot of the season battling to avoid the drop – they are safe now – so again, every credit to the Preston players and staff for being the best of last year’s promoted clubs.
Looking at the defeats to Boro and Fulham, both of those sides have huge budgets.
How much did Fulham pay for Ross McCormack? It was about £11m and he was signed to help them try and get back into the Premier League at the first attempt.
That has not happened, with Fulham struggling at the other end of the table.
Then look at Boro. They spent nearly as much to sign Jordan Rhodes and plenty of money has been splashed on other players too. That is what happens in the Championship, you have clubs who need to be in the Premier League to survive financially.
They will gamble to try and get up there – they need the television revenue and being outside of the top flight can eventually leave them in a right mess.
Bolton were relegated to League One on Saturday just a few years after coming down from the Premier League.
It has happened to Wolves and Wigan too in recent years.
Those Bolton fans who were moaning towards the end of Sam Allardyce’s reign, might want to reflect on what has happened there.
How the clubs who come down from the Premier League will cope next season in the Championship, will be interesting.
I honestly cannot see Aston Villa going straight back up – from the outside looking in, the place looks a mess and probably needs a complete overhaul, which could take some time.
If Newcastle join them, do they have the correct type of players to bounce back?
At the moment, you would say not and, again, the squad will need some work.
Then it is Sunderland or Norwich, probably the two who would be best equipped to give promotion a go.
It is going to be an exciting last few weeks of the season.