Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column

It has been a great week for Preston with two wins and a draw, a return which I'm sure they would have grabbed had it been offered to them beforehand.

Sunday, 18th December 2016, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:03 pm
Simon Makienok shoots Preston in front at Bristol City

Two of the games were away, so that makes it all the more pleasing.

Simon Makienok has found the net in the last two matches and like every striker, he will take confidence from that.

He had that flourish in the autumn, scoring a hat-trick at Bournemouth in the cup and a dramatic late equaliser against Brighton.

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Makienok has got himself going again now and it would be great to see him knock in a few more.

Big strikers like him are a bit of a dying breed in the game – there are not very many 6ft 7in centre-forwards knocking around.

Used properly though, they can be very effective and have the potential to be a headache for defenders.

Makienok is among a high number of North End players to have found the net this season.

They have spread the goals around pretty impressively and are scoring a lot more than they did last year.

On the flip side of the coin, Preston have been conceding a few goals.

Blackburn equalised twice against them last week, with Nottingham Forest and then Bristol City pegging them back.

However, North End had the character to find winners in the Blackburn game and again on Saturday.

It is a balancing act, scoring at one end and keeping the back door shut at the other.

Going into Christmas, PNE have to be pleased with their league position.

They are in touch with the top six, the five-point gap one which can be bridged.

If they can keep in with the pack over the next few weeks, Simon Grayson’s men have every chance of challenging for the top six.

They have a big Christmas programme ahead, with Leeds at Deepdale on Boxing Day and then Sheffield Wednesday on New Year’s Eve.

On January 2 they go to Burton, then it is Arsenal in the FA Cup.

They are three massive home games which will see big crowds.

Leeds will bring a very big following and Boxing Day games tend to see big crowds anyway, with people off work and having more time on their hands.

From my point of view, it is a clash of two of my former clubs.

North End and Leeds are two of the division’s form teams, with Leeds having pushed into fifth place.

I think one of the keys to Leeds’ good form is Garry Monk being left alone to get on with his job.

In the past couple of years, their owner has changed the head coach a number of times and rarely for the better.

Monk does not seem to have had the interference and Leeds have benefited. Looking at the job Monk is doing there, I’m sure there will be a lot of Swansea supporters wishing he was still with them.

Saying all that,PNE will fancy their chances at home and hopefully they can come out with the three points.

As we get to Christmas, in the Premier League you would not bet against Chelsea taking the title.

Eleven wins on the bounce with just two goals conceded is a superb record and Chelsea have put themselves into such a strong position.

The key in the second half of the season will be keeping Diego Costa on form and free from injury because they don’t have a back-up striker of that same quality.