Preston North End boss Alex Neil believes five wins could be enough to clinch a Championship play-off place

Preston manager Alex Neil watches the action intently in the win over Birmingham
Preston manager Alex Neil watches the action intently in the win over Birmingham

Preston North End boss Alex Neil thinks a lower points total than last year could be sufficient for a Championship play-off slot.

In 2017/18 Derby claimed sixth place with 75 points, PNE finishing in seventh place on 73 points.

Alex Neil after Preston's recent derby victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park

Alex Neil after Preston's recent derby victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park

It is seventh where Neil’s men currently sit, having gone 12 games unbeaten.

They were in 17th place before the run started in January.

Neil shared his thoughts on the play-off race during an interview on BBC Five Live.

The Scotsman said: “You need to try and beat the teams around you.

Preston manager Alex Neil with first-team coach Steve Thompson

Preston manager Alex Neil with first-team coach Steve Thompson

“If you lose to some of those teams, it is equivalent to a six-pointer.

“We have eight games left, if we can accumulate five wins out of eight, I don’t think we will be far away.

“All the teams around us have each other to play.

“It will be less than last year to get into the play-offs.

“We got 73 points last year and finished seventh, two points outside.

“I don’t think it will take as much this time.”

PNE resume action after the international break with a trip to Reading who hover just above the relegation zone.

Then they go into a trilogy of games against teams in the automatic promotion and play-off race.

On April 6, North End host Sheffield United and three days later welcome Leeds United to Deepdale.

They head to the Midlands on April 13 for the Gentry Day clash with West Brom at the Hawthorns.

Their Easter fixtures are against Ipswich and Wigan.

Sheffield Wednesday, who are two points behind PNE, come to Deepdale on April 27.

While Neil has insisted his side don’t have the same sort of pressure on them which some of the bigger-hitters do, he does say an expectation is rightly there from the fans.

“As manager I want the fans to feel an expectation,” said Neil.

“If they aren’t dreaming of us doing well, we are not doing our job well enough.

“They are hoping we can get into the play-offs and into the Premier League – that is what they want.

“The lads are doing really well and hopefully that can continue to keep the faithful interested.”

In the Five Live interview, Neil again distanced himself from speculation linking him with the West Brom job.

He did so last week when speaking with the local media, saying he treated speculation ‘with a pinch of salt’.