Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Preston North End's players celebrate the winning own goal
Preston North End's players celebrate the winning own goal
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Preston North End really do seem to have got to grips with the Championship these last couple of months and it was great to see them start the year with the victory over Rotherham.

They had a bit of fortune with the winner right at theend being an own goal but you make your own luck and a win is a win, however it comes.

Scoring two goals in a home game for the first time in the league this season will have pleased Simon Grayson and that is now a statistic to move on from.

What will have pleased him as well is the fact his team came from a goal behind to win.

The first goal is a big one in the Championship and once the better sides go in front, it can be difficult to hit back.

North End showed good character and kept going against a Rotherham side who are fighting for the lives.

They put the pressure on to claim the equaliser and then stayed on the front foot.

There is a few days break from the Championship now, with them playing in the FA Cup against Peterborough next Saturday.

But it is quickly back to the league away at Bristol City and then Ipswich.

If they can bring something back from both of those, it will be a good return.

Saturday’s game saw Sam Johnstone back in goal for North End.

Losing Jordan Pickford was a blow but bringing back Johnstone has been a shrewd move by Grayson.

He knows the club, knows how they train and knows the players in front of him.

Johnstone will know when the defenders will clear the ball and when he has to come out to deal with things.

As a defender, there was nothing worse than having a new keeper behind you, not quite knowing what their game was all about.

So while Tom Clarke, Bailey Wright and Paul Huntington will have sad to say farewell to Pickford, they will have been delighted to have Johnstone back in.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Pickford at Sunderland over the next few weeks.

He had been played every game for Preston this season up until the weekend but now finds himself second or third choice back at the Stadium of Light. The way Vito Mannone played for Sunderland against Aston Villa, I cannot see him being dropped.

It might be that Pickord plays in the FA Cup and takes his chance from there.

He has a very bright future, although in the short term he might have to be patient.

I’ve written before in this column how Pickford played in a friendly for Sunderland against my club Darlington in pre-season.

He caught the eye then with his general goalkeeping and the fact he had a kick as good as any outfield player.

Another loan player to have left Preston in the last few days has been Will Keane.

That was a bit of a surprise because I didn’t think Keane set the place alight during his few months here.

He did hit some form in the last few weeks and scored a great goal at Burnley.

But I don’t think he will be missed quite as much and what happens to him back at Manchester United?

Clearly the lad has some pedigree, otherwise he would not be at United in the first place. But can you see him forcing his way into their side?

If he doesn’t manage to do that, he will back playing for the Under-21s which is not what he will want at his age.

I’m sure regular football with Preston for a bit longer would have been better.