Exclusive Sean Gregan Preston North End column: Disappointment just shows the progress being made at Deepdale

Lukas Nmecha battles with  Bristol City's former PNE midfielder Josh Brownhill
Lukas Nmecha battles with Bristol City's former PNE midfielder Josh Brownhill

Although the draw against Bristol City was not the result Preston would have wanted, I still think it was decent enough.

It is not long ago that the Robins won nine games on the bounce which takes some doing at any level.

In many ways, the fact that PNE were disappointed with the outcome is a sign of their progress over these last couple of months.

A win would have taken North End to within three points of City – as it is, the gap is still six. Time still 
remains on their side slightly, in that there are 11 games to go and this is not the final run-in.

What they will need to do to challenge for the play-offs is win the majority of those remaining games.

North End took the lead in this one and there will be a frustration there that they allowed City an equaliser.

The visitors were always going to have a spell in the game when they came strong and it was all about how Alex Neil’s side handled it.

They are now nine games unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year, which is a good run to be on.

It wasn’t too long ago that putting distance between themselves and the relegation zone was the order of the day, now we are talking about the play-offs and a sense of disappointment that the sixth-placed side were not beaten.

I suppose one thing which the North End supporters will be thinking is whether they would have won this game with Ben Pearson.

He started a two-game ban and a player of Pearson’s quality is always going to be missed, whatever the game.

Pearson plays on the edge and doing so means that he will be at risk of suspensions during the season.

You might be able to take some of the silly yellow cards out of his game but what you don’t want to do is to take that real competitive edge off his game – the edge that will sometimes means he gets a booking or walks close to the edge.

Part of the reshuffle in midfield to cover Pearson’s suspension, saw a recall for Daniel Johnson.

The lad came up with the goal, cleverly worked from a free-kick, and his scoring record down the years with Preston is impressive.

Johnson has been on the bench for the last few weeks so it will have impressed Neil that he was able to recall him and get a good performance.

He is never going to give you that steel in midfield which Pearson did – that is why Ryan Ledson was in – but Johnson does bring creativity to the side and a few goals.

Next week it’s the big one for North End when they play Blackburn at Ewood Park.

There will be a huge away following from Preston and hopefully the fans will be able to celebrate a win.

When I was at North End, it was the era when Rovers were the Premier League big spenders but times have changed since.

It is a noon kick-off, which I hope doesn’t dampen the atmosphere too much.

For the modern-day player, an early start is part and parcel of the job, you just have to adapt your routine to it.