Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Hopefully there will be more celebrating for PNE to do in the final run-in
Hopefully there will be more celebrating for PNE to do in the final run-in

Easter can often be a key part of the season as we hit the final run-in and in Preston’s case the next two games will be very important in terms of their push for the top six.

On Good Friday they face Sheffield Wednesday away and then Derby County come to Deepdale on Monday.

I think PNE are capable of getting six points from those two games, while I don’t think they’d sniff at taking four points.

Wednesday seem to have had a bit of a hangover from last season’s play-offs.

They haven’t got going this season and while they are not in relegation danger, the Owls had been slipping down the table.

It won’t be easy for North End at Hillsborough but they have shown this season often enough how strong they are on the road.

Derby have been on a poor run of late which is a bit of a surprise when you look at the strength of their squad.

Hopefully by the end of Easter, Preston remain in a strong position and in good shape to keep pushing for the play-offs over the last six matches.

I experienced quite a few play-off and promotion pushes as a player.

The best advice I have is to just concentrate on what you are doing, not to worry about how the sides around you are going on.

Naturally, players will have a look at their phones after matches to see how the results have gone.

But beforehand, the focus has to be purely on your game and what you can affect over the 90 minutes.

At some stage you might need a favour from another game but that point has not yet been reached.

This international break will have given Alex Neil the time to give the North End squad a bit of a breather ahead of the run-in.

There will have been the opportunity for a few days off in between some work on the training pitch.

It can be more of a mental thing rather than physical, a time for the players to switch off from the same faces and the same voices.

You spend a lot of time together as a squad in training or travelling to games and however well you get on with one another, it is nice to have a small break occasionally.

The break in the league programme has allowed the international games to take centre stage.

I watched bits and pieces of England’s win in Holland and I was quite encouraged with what I saw.

Gareth Southgate seems to have settled on the system he wants to play and isn’t afraid to try different players within it – Kyle Walker in a three-man defence was a prime example.

Jordan Pickford played very well and will have done his chances of going to the World Cup as No.1 no harm.

We all remember how well Pickford did during his loan spell at Preston a couple of seasons ago.

I listened to an interview with Sam Allardyce the other day about Pickford and how he went to watch him play for PNE soon after taking over at Sunderland.

Within 45 minutes he had decided to recall him from the loan.