Preston North End face Middlesbrough tonight in the middle of a ten-match unbeaten run and Alex Neil’s side have to be considered serious contenders to make the Championship play-offs if they win.
The Lilywhites already have the distinct look of play-off dark horses, after a remarkable run has seen them climb to within just four points of the top six, with ten games of the season remaining.
If they can take advantage of Middlesbrough’s poor home form over recent weeks and deliver a sixth consecutive away win tonight, it would send a real statement to the rest of the teams in the play-off hunt at such a crucial stage of the season.
Middlesbrough have the meanest defence in the Championship by some distance and there is no denying that Tony Pulis’ side will provide a real test for the Lilywhites, but if their recent performances are anything to go by, they stand a good chance of coming away from the Riverside with all three points.
It promises to be a tightly contested game tonight, with Boro looking to respond after the weekend’s disappointing defeat to Brentford, but Preston have already shown they have what it takes to grind out results in the big games this season.
They have also showed they are capable of taking points from the big teams by beating high-flying Norwich City 3-1 at home last month.
Furthermore, they have a manager who knows exactly what it takes to win promotion to the Premier League, with Neil having done so with Norwich via the play-offs in 2015 and with so many teams in the current play-off mix, his experience could prove invaluable.
Neil deserves tremendous credit for what he has been able to achieve at Deepdale on a limited budget, guiding the club to within touching distance of the play-offs in his first season in charge last term.
It is no wonder he is reportedly high on West Brom’s list of candidates to replace Darren Moore at the Hawthorns and Preston cannot afford to lose him at such a vital stage of the season.
Of course, there is still a long way to go and a lot can happen between now and the end of the campaign but if Preston can keep this incredible momentum going, they stand a strong chance of finishing in the top six come May.