Ben Pearson says the play-offs are realistic aim for Preston

Ben Pearson points the way in Preston's draw with Aston Villa on Tuesday night
Ben Pearson points the way in Preston's draw with Aston Villa on Tuesday night

Ben Pearson says ‘the only way is up’ for Preston’s squad as they chase a top-six place.

The midfielder returned from suspension to play a key part in North End’s 1-1 draw at Aston Villa in midweek.

It was a game Pearson felt the Lilywhites deserved more from, their form over the last three months now reading just one loss in 17 league matches.

With a more ruthless edge to turn draws into wins, the 22-year-old is confident they can sustain a determined push for the play-offs – led by the determination of manager Alex Neil.

Pearson told the Post: “The play-offs are in reach and a lot of that is down to the gaffer.

“Right from pre-season, he has given us the confidence that we are good enough to compete for the play-offs and to get promoted.

“We have got a young team and when you have players who are in their early 20s, the more games they get then the better they will get.

“The only way is up with the current playing squad we have got.

“Those combinations have come into play to allow us to have a good season so far.”

Pearson believes that Neil has added more of a tactical element to Preston’s play this season, something they are benefiting from.

Their game-plan at Villa Park was certainly effective for a good chunk of the game, it forcing the hosts to switch to a far more direct approach as they looked for an equaliser.

“A big difference has been tactically this season,” said Pearson.

“Last year, Simon Grayson was brilliant with us, got all of the lads involved and made sure everyone was happy.

“The gaffer has taken all of that and combined it with the tactics.

“With all the young players in our squad, we need that sort of guidance and to be shown what is needed to be done.

“You don’t learn things without being guided and told by someone.”

However good Preston’s displays were at Villa and against Wolves last Saturday, they only yielded two draws.

So Pearson is looking to Ipswich’s visit to Deepdale this weekend as being a big one in the quest to close the gap on the play-off zone.

“We’ve played really well but have not got the points we wanted and deserved,” said Pearson.

“That makes Ipswich a massive game in my eyes.

“If we had got three points at Villa and three out of the Wolves game, we could have gone into Ipswich with a bit less pressure.

“There will be heaps of pressure to win on Saturday.

“We are confident because we have been playing well.

“Next month we’ve got games against sides around us, Fulham and Bristol City, so this is an important spell.”