Sky Sports pundit Andy Hinchcliffe has warned that Preston North End’s 3-1 defeat at home to QPR on Saturday afternoon could raise serious questions about their ability to secure a Championship play-off place this season.
Daniel Johnson’s 19th-minute penalty had been enough to give Preston a half time lead in that match at Deepdale, and after Grant Hall had equalised for Rangers just past the hour mark, North End were handed a big opportunity to re-establish control of the game when QPR midfielder Geoff Cameron was sent off for a second bookable offence.
It was, however, a chance Preston were unable to take, as goals from Ryan Manning and Eberechi Eze instead secured all three points for the visitors.
The nature of that defeat is something that certainly seems to have left Hinchcliffe worried for Preston, and reflecting on that result, the former Manchester City and Everton defender told Sky Sports’ EFL Podcast: “It’s really strange as well because Preston had been so strong at home and they clearly learned from what happened last season and I felt that they were the team that were guaranteed to finish in sixth place.
“They might still do that, but these games against the likes of QPR really, really surprised me.
“A home game when they’re leading, the opposition are down to 10 men and they get beaten, that’s not what I expect from Preston.”
That loss to QPR made it three straight losses for Preston following back to back away defeats at West Brom and Fulham, meaning Alex Neil’s side now only hold a one-point advantage over seventh-placed Bristol City in the battle for the final play-off spot.
Discussing the reasons behind that recent downturn in form, and North End’s chances of retaining that position for the remainder of the campaign, Hinchcliffe continued: “So is it the pressure of getting towards the end of the season and desperately trying to finish in that sixth spot, because that looks like the only play-off position that’s available now.
“Is it Bristol City, Is it Millwall? We could be dropping halfway down the league but Preston were my team.
“I thought they were going to definitely make it but results like the one they picked up against QPR make you think again.”
Next up for Preston in the battle for a top-six spot is a trip to Kenilworth Road on Saturday afternoon, to face a Luton Town side battling for survival at the other end of the Championship table.
This is undoubtedly a concern for Preston.
The defeat in itself will be disappointing, but the manner in which it came will be all the more frustrating, and indeed concerning for the club.
With QPR going down to ten men with the scores all square and a quarter of the match still to play, this was a huge opportunity to get back to winning ways after those recent poor results away at two of their promotion rivals.
The fact they couldn’t take it however, does not bode well for Preston going forward, and may even evoke nerve inducing memories of seasons gone by, when poor runs of form late in the campaign have cost them a top-six spot at the end of the campaign, as referenced here by Hinchcliffe.