Preston have ground to recover in the chase for a Championship play-off place

The importance of Preston’s milestone 5,000th league game has been turned up a few more notches as they look to reclaim some ground in the play-off race.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 29th June 2020, 8:00 am
Alex Neil shows his frustration
Alex Neil shows his frustration

PNE face Derby County at Deepdale on Wednesday on the back of a five-game run without a win either side of the lockdown break.

Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Cardiff City saw them slip out of the top six for the first time since early February.

The result sent the Welsh side leapfrogging over PNE, the sides having been on the same number of points before kick-off.

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It will be a similar scenario on Wednesday teatime (5pm), Derby having pulled level with Alex Neil’s men after beating Reading 2-1.

Cardiff and Derby were the two big winners in terms of the pack of clubs chasing the top six. Blackburn, Swansea and Bristol City were all beaten, while Millwall had a goalless draw with Barnsley.

North End boss Neil was left to rue poor defending and a couple of glaring misses in the Cardiff loss.

Neil said: “I think the game was finely poised at 0-0, there was little between the teams.

“Both teams recognised scoring the first goal was so important.

“Cardiff are a tough nut to crack when they score first because they have a lot of pace on the flanks which allows them to counter-attack and a target to allow the ball to stick up front.

“We went along a similar route and my biggest frustration was we had the better chances to take the lead and didn’t take them.

“Had we scored the first goal it would have allowed us to be a more conservative and hit Cardiff on the counter.

“Instead we had to go searching for an equaliser.

“We were never in the lead, we were always striving to get the next goal.

“The goals we conceded were poor ones. The first started with a mistake and we gave a free-kick away.

“From the second phase of that they flung the ball back in and we didn’t defend the back post well enough.

“The second goal we were culpable right through the team, it could have been stopped at different stages.

“For the third, Patrick Bauer fell over and the shot got a deflection.”

North End’s clash with Derby is followed by visits to Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday.

Their destiny should be a lot clearer after that trio of matches.

Neil said: “We have seven games remaining and we need to make sure we iron out the silly errors.

“It is stuff we have done better in other games and found ourselves on the right side of the result.”