Preston North End have to deliver on Monday against Sunderland after letting play-off hopes go up in smoke
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The Black Cats can still make the top six, a win at Deepdale followed by results elsewhere going their way and they will be looking at back to back play-off campaigns.
North End on the other hand are playing for pride. After the Reading win on Easter Monday there were five games left to go, at the time, two of which were against top six sides.
Of a possible 12 since, they’ve taken just one point. Their push for a play-off spot has completely fallen apart and game to game, they just have not been good enough to best their opposition and they can have little complaints about their haul.
That is why they must turn up on Monday. Everyone around Preston saw them in with a chance coming to the last lap. They had to beat QPR and Reading to set up a sprint to the line, five games, take seven points and you’ve got a chance. They’ve nicked a 90th minute equaliser.
They turned the corner coming into the last lap with their shoelaces undone and have fallen flat on their face. It’s a shame, because it took a lot of effort to get themselves in a position of opportunity. They ran out of steam and were found lacking, which was coupled with the fact that they were without some key players.
Preston have had habit during their time in the Championship of ‘being on the beach’ going into the final games of the campaign. Not just having nothing to play for but just not quite being at it. Last season they had nothing to play for and Middlesbrough had the chance of making the top six, they were turned over 4-1. I don’t think this Ryan Lowe side is going to be on the beach on Monday.
They have to finish well, they’ve not done well over the last four games so they have to show the fans a reason to return after the summer. They have to show a reason to back them over the break, they have to give them something to enjoy for 90 minutes if nothing else.
The players have been well backed by the supporters all season – they may have fallen out with the manager for a time – but the players have always had their support.
This is their chance to repay a bit of that and end on a high.
A word also for Daniel Johnson, who could be playing his final PNE game. A sensational servant for the club who has been a key figure in them securing their status back as a Championship club.
If it is to be 337 all out for Johnson, that is some going. He is 35th in the all-time appearance list for PNE and just four behind Bill Shankly. An exceptional servant and someone who has done himself and the club proud time and time again.