Preston North End's awkward position in the Championship after a difficult 12 months

Preston North End’s form in the last 12 months has in many ways mirrored that of life in lockdown.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 4:45 pm

In the main it has been grim, flashes of hope for something approaching the normal, swiftly extinguished by more doom and gloom.

The Lilywhites appear to have suffered more than most when it comes to not having fans in the ground, particularly for home games.

Although results on the road have been a lot better than at Deepdale, there have still been some poor away displays – think Wycombe, Sheffield Wednesday, Luton.

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Preston North End's last game before lockdown in March 2020 against QPR

When football paused on March 13 last year, North End were sixth in the table with 56 points from 37 games.

Wind the clock forward to the present day, at the 38-game mark they have 44 points and sit in 16th position.

It is a rather awkward slot PNE occupy, in terms of what is happening below.

Being 16th with eight games to go wouldn’t normally sound too many alarm bells.

Jordan Storey, Ben Whiteman and Ryan Ledson after PNE concede late on against Luton last week

Rotherham’s four games in hand muddy the waters though, and that has the clutch of clubs above them all looking over their shoulders.

Two separate Covid-19 shutdowns are the cause of the Millers being behind in their fixtures.

Coming up they are going to play four games in eight days, hence there are question marks about them having the legs to make up the gap.

However, until North End put the six or so points on the board which they need to ensure safety, no PNE fan is going to feel comfortable.

The Lilywhites went into lockdown on the back of three successive defeats – two of those reverses against Fulham and West Bromwich who both went on to get promoted.

Since June’s restart, Preston’s Championship record has been: won 15, drawn nine and lost 23.

Four of those defeats have come in the last five matches, that run leading to Alex Neil being removed from office 24 hours after losing to Luton.

The reset button has been pressed, Frankie McAvoy now having the task of inspiring North End to get the points they need.

Hopefully well before the May 8 finish we are talking about having survived rather conducting an inquest.

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