Sean Gregan's exclusive column

I always felt that Preston North End's trip to Fulham would be a tricky game and that is how things turned out on Gentry Day for Simon Grayson's men.

Sunday, 5th March 2017, 6:45 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:59 am
Preston North End's players look disappointed after conceding the opening goal against Fulham

Unfortunately they came away from Craven Cottage empty-handed and looking at the table, it will be hard for them to make the play-offs.

A nine-point gap to claw back in 11 games would take some doing, that said North End must keep going and see what results they can pick-up in the coming weeks.

Fulham are on the heels of the top six although they still have work to do with five points between them and sixth place.

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Were Fulham to get into the play-offs, I would fancy them to do well.

They play a very attacking brand of football and have some good players in their squad.

I watched the Football League highlights show on Saturday night and former Blackburn manager Owen Coyle was a guest.

Coyle thought Fulham were the best footballing side in the division and you can see why he said that.

One positive from the defeat on Saturday was a goal for Tom Barkhuizen who was making his first Preston start.

It is great to see players get off the mark and being an attacking player, it was very important for Barkhuizen.

He has taken a big step-up coming from Morecambe to North End, although he has tasted football at this level when he was younger.

But his recent football came at Morecambe and it will have needed an adjustment to the Championship.

Hopefully there are more goals and good performances to come from Barkhuizen.

North End now go to Pride Park on Tuesday night to face Derby County.

Like Fulham, they will have some big names in their squad – David Nugent and Tom Ince for example.

Preston have tended to bounce back well in the wake of a defeat in recent months.

It was something they found a bit harder to do at the start of the season but since then any defeats have tended to be followed by a win or draw.

If the play-offs go prove to be out of reach this season, it is important for North End to finish strongly.

If they finish higher than last season’s 11th place, that is further progress and something they can look to build-on again.

Steadily, Simon Grayson and the PNE board have put together a strong squad and with more work in the summer, they could have a good go at it next season.

I’ll finish with a mention of Gentry Day which seems to get bigger every year.

I’m told some of the fans went by boat to the game, which in London is probably one of the quickest ways to travel bearing in mind how gridlocked the roads get!

It sounds like everyone had a good time, even if the result wasn’t good.

Paul Sparrow, one of my former PNE team-mates, was on the boat with the fans.

‘Spadge’ was a great lad, he’d been there for a while before I signed – one of the title-winning squad.