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Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column

Tom Clarke blocks a shot from Birmingham City's Cheick Ndoye
Tom Clarke blocks a shot from Birmingham City's Cheick Ndoye

Judging by how things went for Preston against Birmingham at Deepdale, it is one of those games in which you accept the draw and quickly move on.

It wasn’t their finest hour with Alex Neil admitting it was the poorest display in his time as North End manager.

Who knows, the point they got from it might end up being a decent one.

Clearly they missed Ben Pearson, a player who has grown into a key figure in the centre of midfield.

You need someone like Pearson putting a foot in and stopping the opposition, as well as being able to build play the other way.

That was my style of play and while it isn’t always that pleasing on the eye, it needs to be done in a lot of games.

I look at Birmingham and see them in a false position down in the bottom three.

They spent a lot of money on 12 or 14 players last summer but clearly have struggled to gel as a team.

Steve Cotterill is a wily manager who has plenty of experience at this level.

I can certainly see them getting out of the relegation zone and climbing the table.

That said, they are down there at the moment and this was a game PNE would have fancied their chances in.

Having taken the lead, however poorly they were playing, it was then very disappointing that Birmingham equalised – taking advantage of a defensive mix-up.

The Championship is a 
division where you often get a result like this, a side higher up failing to beat one of the strugglers.

It is the nature of the league – if you are not are not at your best, you can get found out. In the Premier League, the better sides tend to get away with a below-par 
display but the Championship is a competitive place where anyone can get a 
result.

Neil was very forthright in his opinion of the game, 
saying that North End had not played as badly as that since he came to Deepdale.

I like a manager who tells it as it is – players like that honesty, even if sometimes it is not nice to hear.

As a player, if I played well or played badly, I wanted the manager to tell me that.

If I was left out of a side, it was easier to accept if you were told exactly why.

I played under a couple of managers who used to dance around the edges of things, they didn’t give you a proper reason why .

It is the FA Cup next for North End when they head to Sheffield United.

Being drawn against a team in your own division is a bit underwhelming – what you really want is Newport at home or a blockbuster from the Premier League away.

Like in the last round at Wycombe, Neil could choose to look at one or two different things.

It might be a chance for a bit of game-time for lads who haven’t played much.

Balancing that out, a good run in the FA Cup can be of great benefit – both from a financial point of view and in terms of confidence.

If they get a result against United, North End can carry that in to the league match against Nottingham Forest the following Tuesday night.

Fingers crossed for good results from both.