Exclusive Sean Gregan column

Joe Garner lies on the pitch after going close with a header in the second half at Colchester
Joe Garner lies on the pitch after going close with a header in the second half at Colchester
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I know the 1-0 defeat against Colchester is going to feel like the end of the world for all Preston supporters right at this moment.

But this is the time to get right behind the team and the manager because they are going to be feeling just as bad – if not worse.

To have automatic promotion in your hands on the final day of the season, only to have it taken from your grasp, is going to be extremely tough to recover from. But North End are going to have to get over it – and get over it quickly – because their play-off semi-final against Chesterfield is just days away.

I can totally understand how the players will be 
feeling right now. I lost three play-off finals when I was a player at Darlington, Leeds and Preston.

You feel hollow inside when you get to within 90 minutes of promotion and do not complete the job. It’s a huge disappointment to recover from and the hangover from our play-off final defeat to Bolton Wanderers in 2001 probably lasted all summer.

In fact, if my memory serves me correct, we were thrashed in the first game of the following season 5-0 away at Gillingham.

I suppose the biggest disappointment is that everything was in Preston’s hands – they did not have to rely on anybody else doing them a favour.

But there’s no time for PNE to stew over the result on Sunday – in many ways that’s a good thing.

They will probably feel rotten when they wake up on Monday morning, but then the realisation will kick in that they have got a second bite at the cherry and a chance to put things right.

It’s up to the manager to pick his players up and get them ready to go again.

He will probably give them a couple of days off to get their heads right and get over this heartache.

The manager has won promotion via the play-offs so he knows what it takes, which is obviously a positive.

Everybody talks about North End’s terrible record in the play-offs – they have never won promotion in nine attempts, but I don’t pay too much attention to that.

The poor record has got to end some time so why not now? North End have proven over the course of the season that out of the four teams who have finished in the play-offs, they are the best team.

But as we know, the play-offs are a great leveller and despite finishing 20 points behind Preston, Chesterfield will feel like they have a great chance.

It all boils down to a three-game season and no matter how many points you finish ahead, it doesn’t matter in the play-offs.

Chesterfield will feel like they have done brilliantly to just get in the play-offs, so mentally they could have the edge.

Having been second for so long, being in the play-offs will feel like a real kick in the teeth for North End. But I think the important thing is the away leg is first and then they will have a full house at Deepdale.

As for the game against Colchester – the result was probably a fair one.

The U’s needed to win to avoid relegation and I always thought it was going to be a difficult one for North End.

I always felt things were in MK Dons’ favour on the final day with them being at home against an already relegated Yeovil and so it proved.

You have got to give Karl Robinson and his team credit. They have been knocking on the door for a few years and have been on a terrific run 
of late.