Former Preston midfielder Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Preston North End's Alan Browne, Darnell Fisher and Callum Robinson protest to referee Gavin Ward
Preston North End's Alan Browne, Darnell Fisher and Callum Robinson protest to referee Gavin Ward

Preston’s defeat against Sheffield United was a chance missed in terms of the game itself and results elsewhere.

Alex Neil’s men had two or three good chances before the Blades scored the game’s only goal.

Other results went for them, in that all the teams in that group of clubs above them – bar Aston Villa – lost or drew.

Had they managed to win the game or even just find an equaliser, their chances of making the play-offs would have looked a bit healthier.

For United’s goal, I think a couple of things could have been done better.

Someone lost their man from the corner who headed it goalwards.

Maybe the keeper should have done a bit better with the push on to the bar and David McGoldrick was there to put in the rebound.

Managers will always do a lot of work on defending set pieces, so Alex Neil will have been disappointed with that one to say the least.

The first goal in a game at this level is so important, we’ve seen that time and time again.

Once they got in front, Sheffield United defended their lead well.

They don’t concede many goals and did the same at Leeds a few weeks ago – got the lead and sat behind the ball to defend.

I wrote last week that I thought North End needed seven points from these three games.

They can now only get six points and that has to be the target against Leeds and West Bromwich Albion.

A tall order? Maybe but it’s not impossible by any means.

Leeds and WBA both lost on Saturday and the size of those clubs means that the pressure is very much on them.

Looking at the division, Norwich look to have got top spot sewn up.

Then it’s a straight race between Leeds and Sheffield United for second place and automatic promotion.

That will be an interesting race over the next few weeks and it’s hard to pick out of those two.

West Brom will finish in the play-offs then it’s two more after that.

Aston Villa have hit form over the last couple of months and they will be in the top six.

Then it is anyone of the clubs down to PNE in 10th who could get sixth place.

Some have been in good form, others not – look at Middlesbrough who can’t buy a win at the moment.

Preston just need to stay focused, go a game at a time and see where it takes them.

Their opponents this week are both former clubs of mine.

I went to Leeds after they had been relegated from the Premier League and it was a tough time for the club.

Their fans were used to seeing European football yet there they were down in the Championship.

West Brom was the club I left Preston for, that gave me the chance to play Premier League football.

Even though Albion were relegated that season, we got straight back up.