Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Sean Maguire
Sean Maguire

Defeat for Preston against Fulham was a cruel one, the winning goal for the visitors coming so late in the game.

I listened to the interview Alex Neil gave after the game and he mentioned there had been a ‘miniscule’ difference between the sides.

That is what can often, just one little moment can tip the balance one way or another.

North End had come off a great win over Bristol City in midweek and maybe we need to bear that in mind.

Had they drawn that one and drawn with Fulham, it would have been two points from six.

As it was, they have three points from two tough home games although they will feel they were deserving of more.

Aleksandar Mitrovic is a player who Preston don’t want to see in a hurry again.

He scored both Fulham’s goals on Saturday, taking his tally to six against North End having netted four last season for his parent club Newcastle.

Fulham have the budget to go out and spend £30,000 a week on his wages or that kind of sum.

Mitrovic could well make the difference between them getting into the top two or at least being a big force to be reckoned with in the play-offs.

Mind you, there was a striker in form at the other end of the pitch in the shape of Sean Maguire.

His header for Preston’s equaliser was his fourth goal in three games in a week.

The fact he came off the bench in two of those games makes those statistics even more impressive.

Maybe Maguire can be to Preston what Mitrovic has been for Fulham?

He has given them extra bit of spark up front, four goals for someone coming back from a long-term injury is good going to say the least.

Maguire is fresh, clearly full of confidence and will be an important player over the coming weeks.

I’m sure a close check is being kept on his training and work load so not to push him too far.

The fact there is a clear midweek ahead is probably the ideal thing for Maguire, a chance to recover from the Fulham for a couple of days and then go again.

What North End must not lose sight of is that they have only lost three times in 21 league games.

With that kind of run and consistency, if they were to get into the play-offs I don’t think anyone would fancy playing them.

They seem especially strong away from home and could be key in this final part of the season.

It is Sunderland away next for Preston and they need to be bringing something back from the Stadium of Light.

When you look at some of the players in Sunderland’s head, you do scratch your head and wonder why they are bottom of the table.

However, Chris Coleman has found it just as difficult as Simon Grayson did there and they could well be the next club to fall straight through to League One like others have done in the past.

If Preston can score first up there, they will be in a very strong position.