Exclusive Sean Gregan Preston North End column: Lilywhites need to kick on

Defeat to Middlesbrough capped a far-from-festive holiday period for PNE
Defeat to Middlesbrough capped a far-from-festive holiday period for PNE

One point out of three games over Christmas and New Year wasn’t the best for Preston North End.

The draw at Leeds United on Boxing Day was very good, they were minutes away from a victory and only a deflected shot denied them that.

Their home form has been their strength this season so it was a surprise to see them lose to both Reading and Middlesbrough at Deepdale.

Beforehand you would have expected four points from those two, even six – but they got nothing. Maybe there was a bit of fatigue from the Leeds game and the distance they covered at Elland Road.

Whatever it was, they fell behind in both home games and were not able to recover.

If North End are feeling a bit low in confidence after the last two results, just look back to the Leeds game.

They pressed, harried and created some good chances, scoring a wonderful goal on the counter-attack.

During that game they showed they can compete with the best sides in the Championship.

The players should take heart from that, learn from what happened in the next two and move on. Looking at the table, I think the top two will take some catching and then underneath that it is anyone’s, right down to mid-table, for the play-offs.

North End are in that pack having been right up there a couple of months ago.

They have shown before that they can bounce back from poor runs, hopefully that is the case this time.

A bit of business in the transfer market this month won’t do them any harm.

Not just buying for buying sake but extra quality to add to the competition,

I’ve been in squads where a January signing just gave everyone a lift and kept us on our toes.

If you are challenging for promotion or the play-offs, you want to be involved in every game.

So if someone comes in and has an eye on your place in the team, you up your game that extra bit to make sure you stay in.

It’s the FA Cup this weekend and a break from the Championship, which might just be a good thing.

North End play Norwich and there will no doubt be plenty of changes from both managers.

Alex Neil will have a few lads who he’ll want to give a game to, while Norwich’s priority this season will be staying in the Premier League.

For Neil, the third-round clash is one where he comes up against his former club.

I don’t think there is any animosity between him and Norwich but it’s natural that you want to do well against a club you managed or played for.

Neil took them into the Premier League after only a few months in the job and I’m sure he respects them and they respect him.

It could be quite an 
open game because I can’t see either side wanting a replay.

I doubt Norwich will sit back and in light of the last two results North End will want to go for it, be on the front foot and try and get that first goal.