Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Preston North End's Ben Pearson tries to find a way through the Ipswich defence
Preston North End's Ben Pearson tries to find a way through the Ipswich defence

You could look at Preston’s defeat to Ipswich in a couple of ways in terms of the push for the top six.

You could look at Preston’s defeat to Ipswich in a couple of ways in terms of the push for the top six.

They didn’t lose much ground with Middlesbrough the only side between sixth and 10th place to take a point over the weekend.

So it is effectively as you were in that race for sixth place with a dozen games to go.

The other way of looking at things is that Saturday’s defeat was a chance missed.

Had they won, North End would have squeezed into the play-off places which would have been a big boost.

It could be that losing to Ipswich was a bit of a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ as it came on the back of a great performance against Aston Villa.

Although they didn’t win at Villa Park, PNE were the better side that night and only got pegged back by a soft penalty.

Coming up against a Mick McCarthy managed side was probably not the best thing for them.

If there is one thing which McCarthy will guarantee is that his teams are organised and hard to beat.

Sometimes you can detect before a game that things are a bit flat – the dressing room, the stadium, the crowd.

As a team, you have to get yourself above that and find a way of winning.

While North End will have been disappointed to lose to Ipswich, this was only a second defeat in 18 games.

They can’t have too many complaints about that run and it has taken them into that play-off battle.

Alex Neil won’t press the panic button after this loss, he doesn’t seem the type to do so and didn’t do after the defeats earlier in the season.

He will no doubt run through the game with the players in the next couple of days, look at things they can improve on.

Then it will be full focus on the Bolton Wanderers game at the weekend.

That is a big one because everyone likes a derby and both teams need the points for different reasons.

After that it is two home games against Bristol City and Fulham who are both in the top six.

Fulham are flying at the moment and I don’t think they will have given up yet on even getting second place.

Despite their little wobble, Wolves should have enough to finish top and then it is anyone’s for second.

I won’t get too ahead of myself looking at the Bristol City and Fulham games, it is Bolton next.

Going back to the Ipswich game, it was nice to hear that Joe Garner got a very good reception from the North End supporters.

Garner was a big favourite at Deepdale, scoring a lot of goals in League One and then helping them settle well in the Championship – he gave 100% all the time.

I think the fact Garner went to play for Rangers and not straight to another club in the same division as PNE, made sure there was no bad blood.

Whatever you say about football in Scotland, Rangers are a massive club and will have appealed to Garner.

He had a year there before his move to Ipswich.