Sean Gregan’s exclusive column: Spluttering form has Preston caught in no man’s land

Preston North End's Sean Maguire gets a shot on goal
Preston North End's Sean Maguire gets a shot on goal

In terms of their results, Preston have spluttered over the last few weeks and are in something of a no man’s land with their position in the Championship table.

There is probably enough of a gap at the moment to stop them being dragged into a relegation battle and above them, teams with their eye on the play-offs have pulled out in front.

These next few weeks will be about getting some more points on the board and just trying to be as strong as they can over the second-half of the campaign.

When North End were on that run of one defeat in 12 games, there was a glimmer of hope of perhaps making a run for the top six.

But I think things have gone beyond that, it would take on hell of a sequence of results.

Saturday’s draw against Swansea was a point on the board and a response to last week’s FA Cup defeat at the hands of Doncaster Rovers.

It was a game which saw debuts for Jayden Stockley and Brad Potts.

Stockley will fill the role of targetman, there having been a vacancy for one in the squad since Jordan Hugill left last year.

It’s good to have that sort of option in the squad, there are games when you need that outball to relieve the pressure.

Hugill proved when he was here that there can be a lot more to a targetman than just being someone to lump the ball up to.

His scoring record was good and it’s interesting to see that Stockley comes with an impressive haul of goals at Exeter City.

I don’t mind North End doing some shopping in the lower divisions.

They have done it down the years, myself included from Darlington.

All four of their January signings to date had been playing regularly at their former clubs.

That is positive for me as they won’t be lacking match fitness.

Sometimes if you go and get a player from a Premier League club’s reserves, they haven’t played a great deal and need four or five weeks just to get up the speed.

North End now head to London to face Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

For all the criticism Steve McClaren attracts, he is a good coach and has got QPR pushing up the league after a dreadful start to the season.

They got beaten 7-1 by West Bromwich in August but have recovered well and are within reach of the top six. A big story of recent days was the Leeds employee caught spying on a Derby training session ahead of their meeting last Friday.

It doesn’t sit comfortably with me and hopefully this was an isolated incident.

You get plenty of chances to watch the opposition play in the weeks before a game and ‘spying’ at a training ground crosses the line.

When I was a player at Preston, Springfields used to be an open-gate and anyone could come and watch.

It all depends where a club’s training ground is.

Springfields, for example, has a public footpath down the side of it so there would be no need for any cloak and dagger stuff if a club wanted to send the spies out!