Preston find themselves in the hunt for a spot in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs with North End currently occupying the final spot in the top six.
Manager Alex Neil has worked wonders to get Preston into this position with just ten games to go as they sit two points clear of Bristol City and the rest of the chasing pack.
Despite starting the season with a defeat at The Den to Millwall, the Lilywhites relied heavily on their impeccable home form which saw them surge up the table. North End have been a part of the play-off conversation for the majority of the 2019/2020 season, rarely dropping out of the top six.
With this in mind, we look at three factors that will define North End’s season in the final ten games…
Rediscovering home form
As mentioned previously, Neil’s side relied heavily on their home form at the start of the campaign. They were able to make Deepdale a daunting place to play football with its grey skies and hostile atmosphere. Wins against hotly tipped Stoke City, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford suggested that teams were not keen to visit central Lancashire and put up enough of a fight.
Since the turn of the year, away teams have found a bit more joy travelling to Preston. North End have won just two home games from their last five which will leave them short if they are harvesting play-off ambitions. Should Preston rediscover their former selves at home, they could be a banker to finish inside the Sky Bet Championship play-offs.
Loss of Pearson
Ben Pearson has been an integral part of Preston’s good form so far this season with a lot of his tenacious work in midfield going unnoticed by North End supporters. But the combative midfielder is facing a month on the sidelines following a suspected hamstring injury picked up in the defeat to West Bromwich Albion. He looks set to miss the next four Sky Bet Championship clashes with QPR, Luton, Cardiff and Derby – crucial games for Preston’s play-off prospects.
Brad Potts stepped in for the trip down to London to face Fulham and put in a promising performance, according to boss Neil. The man signed from Barnsley slotted into the attacking midfield role behind David Nugent with Alan Browne stepping into a deeper role.
However, North End would go on to lose that game and allow Bristol City to close the gap on them.
Form of their strikers
One area where Preston don’t struggle in is their ability to get goals from all over the pitch with Tom Barkhuizen and Daniel Johnson chipping in with goals from midfield. The only set of players that seem to struggle to put the ball in the net are North End’s strikers. With their three recognised strikers scoring just five goals between them, it is clear where there needs to be more of a contribution.
Nugent started the game against Fulham on Saturday, but the experienced striker put through his own net, not the Fulham one. But with a reputation of scoring goals in the Sky Bet Championship perhaps Preston stick with him and wait for the goals to come. However, they don’t have time on their side which was recognised when Neil brought in extra firepower in the winter window with the addition of Scott Sinclair, who will need to hit the ground running if North End are to be playing Premier League football in August.