Maxwell wants PNE to be in mix

There is still a long way to go in Preston North End's hunt for a play-off place.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 23rd February 2017, 6:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 12:49 pm
Chris Maxwell says Preston North End will fight to the end in their play-off push
Chris Maxwell says Preston North End will fight to the end in their play-off push

That is the view of goalkeeper Chris Maxwell, who believes the battle to finish in the top six could go right down to the wire.

Simon Grayson’s side head into Saturday’s game against Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale nine points shy of the final play-off spot in 10th.

With current occupants Sheffield Wednesday six points clear of Fulham in seventh, the current top six could well be the final one when the season is done.

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But Maxwell believes plenty can still change with 13 games to go.

“If players say they don’t look at the league table, they’re lying a little bit,” said the 26-year-old.

“You do have a look now and again.

“How you look at the table is important though.

“Certainly myself and a few others were looking at the teams above us and not behind us.

“We’re not looking at teams that could dislodge us.

“We’re thinking about if we get three points where will it take us?

“We can go up to eighth on Saturday, which is just below the play-offs.

“Things can change in a couple of weeks and we’ve just got to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance by winning games.”

The play-offs may be the ambition but Maxwell knows looking to far ahead is not a recipe for success.

“In the back of the lads’ minds we are aiming to get in the play-offs, of course we are,” he said.

“But we’ve got to be taking each game as it comes, picking up points on a regular basis, which we are, and putting the pressure on the teams above us.

“We’ve seen Sheffield Wednesday drop points this week (a 2-1 defeat at home to Brentford) and we’ve got to make sure that we jump at the chance if that occurs again.

“We face teams in and around us in the next few weeks and we’ve got to make sure we pick up points to be right in the mix come May 7.”

Many look at North End’s current position in the Championship’s top 10 and believe that is an achievement it itself, even if the play-off bid ultimately comes up short.

In a cash-rich second tier the Lilywhites are not one of the big hitters but Maxwell believes Grayson’s men upsetting the odds shouldn’t come as a shock.

“I don’t think a club like ours with the players we’ve got should be in any danger,” he said.

“If you talk to any of the lads about where they’re looking to be, it’s in the play-offs whether it’s this season or in the future.

“The media can talk about budgets and transfer fees and wages and all that but ultimately I don’t think it matters about that.

“It matters about the team spirit you have and the work ethic you have on the training field.

“We’ve got that in abundance at this club. It’s a recipe for success and I’m sure we will push on.”

Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Wigan was the second in a row on the road after the stalemate at Barnsley.

It may have been a frustrating afternoon at the DW Stadium as Jordan Hugill missed an early penalty but it was a good day for the PNE backline.

There has been plenty of talk about North End having more of an attacking edge this season, with Aiden McGeady and others to the fore, but it is clear that the defensive solidity that has been a signature of Grayson’s four years in charge at Deepdale remains.

“Ultimately my job is to keep the ball out of the back of the net,” said Maxwell.

“The other 10 players in the team and those that come off the bench contribute to that though.

“Like the gaffer’s been saying, it is a team effort, it is the work ethic that we have at the club that contributes towards that.

“There’s a great team spirit in the dressing room. Every single one of the lads wants to work hard for each other. I don’t think any of the lads want to let each other down and on top of that they don’t want to let the manager and the fans down.

“It’s been ingrained in the club about the defensive abilities of the squad.

“It provides us with the platform to go and win games.”

Next up, QPR are the visitors to Deepdale, Ian Holloway having replaced Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Loftus Road since the sides met earlier in the season.

The former Blackpool boss endured a tough return to the club.

But having won their last two at Birmingham and at home to Wigan, they are 15th as they drag themselves clear of the relegation places.

“We’re coming into the business end of the season, as everyone calls it,” said Maxwell.

“No matter who you play at this stage of the season it’s always going to be a difficult game.

“The teams down the bottom are fighting for their lives and the teams up the top are desperate to get promoted automatically or via the play-offs.

“The teams in the middle of the division are desperate to get in the play-offs like ourselves or don’t want to get dragged into the relegation zone.

“It is a difficult period and one we’ve got to make sure we come through and come out on top of.”

Away from Deepdale, another goalkeeper has been hitting the headlines this week.

Sutton United’s Wayne Shaw has left the National League club after eating a pie on the bench during their FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, seemingly as part of a stunt for a betting firm.

Maxwell is no stranger to non-league football, having come through the ranks at Wrexham, and also played in the Welsh Premier League, and says it does not reflect how clubs at that level are striving to be as professional as possible.

“I’ve seen some sights in my non-league days but nothing quite like that,” he said.

“I think it was a bit of fun that got out of hand.

“Players down in the Conference are ones that pride themselves on being professional and acting how professional footballers should do.

“Ultimately at the end of the day if they don’t act like professionals and the club isn’t professional itself then they’re never going to be in the Football League.”