Five things we learned: Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Preston North End

Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington battle in the air at Loftus Road.
Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington battle in the air at Loftus Road.

Preston came from behind once again to move within three points of the Championship play-off places at Loftus Road.

ALSO READ: Alan Browne thinks his winner at QPR is Preston's most important goal of the season
Callum Robinson and Alan Browne were on target after Matt Smith had put the hosts in front.

Darnell Fisher returned to action at Loftus Road.

Darnell Fisher returned to action at Loftus Road.

We review the main talking points including a central defensive return for Tom Clarke and another away win.

There’s still life in this play-off race yet

There were more twists and turns again on Saturday in a battle for a place in the top six that is proving increasingly hard to predict. It was viewed as a key day for North End who had the chance to make up ground with teams around them playing each other. Almost everything went for the Lilywhites. They came from behind to see off QPR while Sheffield United and Millwall drew, Burton surprisingly saw off Derby and for a long time Middlesbrough and Bristol City were all square only for Tony Pulis’ side to take all three points. PNE moved up from 11th to eighth and the five-point gap was reduced to three with three games to play. It’s getting interesting.

Coming from behind becoming a feature

Callum Robinson comes under pressure from former PNE loanee Alex Baptiste.

Callum Robinson comes under pressure from former PNE loanee Alex Baptiste.

The Loftus Road win saw North End record a fifth come-from-behind victory of the season, more than any other team in the Championship this campaign. Four of those have come since the turn of the year with 19 points picked up from losing positions in total. Neil’s men can certainly make life easier for themselves having gone behind in the last five games, resulting in three defeats and two wins. But more often than not this season, the work ethic of this PNE side has shone through.

PNE do enjoy an away day

North End’s tendency to perform better on the road than at Deepdale this season has been well documented. Now, if they avoid defeat against Sheffield United in a couple of weeks, they will finish the season with fewer losses away than at home for only the third time in their history. What happened on the other two occasions? You guessed it, promotion. The first in 1995-96 saw them promoted from Division Three to Two. And in 1999-2000, PNE ascended the ladder further as Division Two champions.

North End can win without Seani

Having finished the Tuesday night win over Leeds with a limp, Sean Maguire was not fit enough to face QPR on Saturday. Such a talisman this season, exploding back into action after his injury, there was plenty of concern about how PNE would fare sans Maguire. The answer was, after a scrappy first period, pretty well. Callum Robinson led the line and put in a good shift, working his socks off across the front. He got his goal, even if Darnell Fisher’s cross did hit him and just about go over the line, before then trying to claim a second as Alan Browne headed home. Robinson has grown into this season and this was another strong display.

Clarke’s experience still vital

Tom Clarke has returned to action in the last week and served up a real reminder of what he offers. There was some surprise pre-match that when Darnell Fisher returned it was Ben Davies who dropped to the bench. With giant front man Matt Smith likely to play, as he did, Neil went for Clarke’s physical presence and it paid off. The goal was a slack bit of defending all round, Fisher playing Smith onside, but apart from that there was a real dominance from Clarke and Paul Huntington. Both took bangs, the Cumbrian’s especially nasty at one point when he was down for a couple of minutes, but they stood firm, most crucially of all when PNE survived six minutes of stoppage time.