Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column

PNE had to hold firm against some late Sheffield United, including when keeper Jamal Blackman was sent up for a stoppage-time corner
PNE had to hold firm against some late Sheffield United, including when keeper Jamal Blackman was sent up for a stoppage-time corner

Every credit to Preston who have hung on in there in the play-off race and go into the last game of the season with a chance of climbing into the top six.

They have refused to let go of the opportunity, even when the odds looked stacked against them.

It was not too long ago that North End lost three games on the bounce against Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and Reading.

They bounced back with two wins over Leeds and Queens Park Rangers but the goalless draw with Norwich last week stalled them again.

When Derby beat Cardiff in midweek, the chances of PNE making the top six looked remote to say the least.

But the Championship being as it is, things swung back in their favour on Saturday.

And from there being a clutch of clubs in the queue for that final play-off slot, it is now just Derby and Preston.

They deserve a huge amount of credit for going to Bramall Lane and winning against Sheffield United.

That is never an easy place to go and North End have found it a particularly tough ground over the years.

I played there a few times for Preston and barely got a point, so for them to pull off a victory at such a crucial time of the season was impressive.

It wasn’t the prettiest game of football ever played but results and not displays count at the moment.

When you dig in as the away team, soak up pressure and then score, it proves to be very satisfying.

North End have played some good stuff at times this season but Alex Neil will have been delighted to see the other side of the game from his players.

It was the latest in a long line of good away results this season – 10 wins on the road at any level is impressive.

Throw into the equation that they have drawn against Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Fulham and Millwall away, and it’s an away record to be proud of.

All the attention now goes on Sunday’s game against Burton at Deepdale.

Preston of course need Barnsley to win at Derby but that is something out of their control.

Neil will be telling them to concentrate on their game and only afterwards look at how Derby have gone on.

The simple equation is that PNE need a win, it is not about playing for a point or working out goal difference.

Burton need to come to Deepdale and win because they need the points to get out of the bottom three.

The fact they will have to come and attack might suit North End, who are good on the counter-attack.

But make no bones about it, Sunday will be tough and it could be edge-of-your-seats stuff.

My old manager at West Bromwich, Gary Megson, used to say anyone can get up to the line, it is getting over it which is the hard part.

During my time at North End, we got in the play-offs a few times but not with a 
last-day result.

We had always been in for a few games, had a chance to rest players, so watching how this unfolds is really exciting.