Burton look to cap remarkable revival by upsetting Preston on final day
For Burton to be making the trip to Deepdale on Sunday with a chance of staying in the Championship is the result of a huge change in fortune.
Following a 5-0 drubbing at home to Hull City on April 10, the Brewers seemingly had a one-way ticket to relegation.
The defeat left them eight points adrift of safety, that a ninth game without a win.
But Nigel Clough’s men have launched the form book out of the window in some style since then and come to Preston knowing a win could well keep them up.
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Three wins on the bounce have hauled Burton off the foot of the table and to within touching distance of getting out of the bottom three.
Going into Sunday’s game, only goal difference separates them from Barnsley in 21st place.
Burton’s revival started with a 3-1 win over local rivals Derby at the Pirelli Stadium, that incredibly their first at home since September.
A week later they won 2-1 at Sunderland, relegating the Black Cats in the process.
Clough’s men had trailed 1-0 until the 86th minute, with them netting the winner deep into stoppage time.
Last Saturday they beat Bolton 2-0, leapfrogging them in the process.
It leaves things bubbling nicely for Sunday’s meeting, one which North End need the points from in their quest to reach the play-offs.
In December, Alex Neil’s side got the better of Burton in the reverse fixture, winning 2-1 with goals from Tom Clarke and Daryl Horgan.
Casting his mind back to the visit to Staffordshire, Neil said it took a tactical switch for Preston to turn their play into goals.
“We had Jordan Hugill up there that afternoon and the way we kept playing it up to him was bread and butter for their centre-backs,” said Neil.
“With him being our top scorer it was a big decision to take him off.
“We needed to move them around a lot more so we put Tom Barkhuizen up front and had Daryl Horgan coming in from the left.
“That burst the game open and we scored through Tom Clarke and Daryl.”
Neil was expecting a tough game from Burton, regardless of their upsurge in form.
With it now do-or-die for both clubs at different ends of the table, the stakes are such as to suggest a really intense battle.
Burton boss Clough said: “We need something, we need a positive result.
“If we lose, we are down, it’s one of those where you have to keep an eye on other results, I think.
“If Bolton are going to win, then we need more than a draw.
“Barnsley, whatever they get, we have to get better than them. With one game to go, it’s very clear.
“We’ve all got hard games, and I wish we were at home rather than away.
“But we go to Preston in great spirits.”
Lloyd Dyer is Albion’s top scorer with seven goals but is struggling with a hamstring strain. Lucas Akins is next in the scoring charts with five.