Preston North End have catapulted themselves into Championship playoff contention but face a very difficult run-in.

Ryan Lowe had a pretty perfect Easter period.

A 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers was followed by a dramatic 2-1 home victory over Reading.

Those two wins – added to the 3-1 home win over Blackpool – have rocketed North End into the playoff picture.

PNE now sit level on points with fifth placed Millwall and sixth placed Blackburn Rovers.

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This weekend’s game at Millwall is now absolutely enormous and kicks off what is a very tricky end to the season.

PNE’s remaining fixtures: Millwall (A), Swansea City (A), Blackburn Rovers (H), Sheffield United (A), Sunderland (H).

North End have, as the old cliche says, five cup finals.

There are a couple of real six-pointers in there as PNE take on Millwall and Blackburn, two direct rivals for playoff spots.

Swansea isn’t exactly an easy away game and neither is Sheffield United, even if they could be promoted by then.

Sunderland are four points behind PNE and may even have aspirations of gatecrashing the top six themselves, so if PNE do finish in the playoff place, they will have truly earned it.

Let’s dig into the run-ins for the other playoff chasing teams, excluding Luton Town and Middlesbrough, who appear to have secured their places.

West Bromwich Albion v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship
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Millwall remaining fixtures: PNE (H), Birmingham City (H), Wigan Athletic (A), Blackpool (A), Blackburn Rovers (H).

After Saturday’s big showdown with North End, Millwall then take on a Birmingham City side who appear to be safe from relegation.

The same can’t be said for the next two opponents Wigan Athletic and Blackpool, who look doomed at the bottom of the table.

Those three games are fixtures Millwall would expect to win, before facing playoff rivals Blackburn Rovers on the final day in what could be a massive contest.

Blackburn Rovers v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship
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Blackburn Rovers remaining fixtures: Hull City (H), Coventry City (H), PNE (A), Burnley (H), Luton Town (H), Millwall (A).

This run is full of potential banana skins, starting with a Hull City who are confusing at the best of times and Coventry, who aren’t out of the playoff mix just yet.

Rovers then face two big local derbies with PNE and Burnley, the latter of which is tough to call as the Clarets are already up but won’t want to lose to their bitter enemies.

Luton Town and Millwall are two tough games to end the campaign and whilst Rovers have a game in hand, PNE will be hoping to see them slip up.

Blackburn Rovers v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship
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Norwich City remaining fixtures: Middlesbrough (A), Queens Park Rangers (A), Swansea City (H), West Bromwich Albion (A), Blackpool (H).

The Canaries are just a point behind PNE and certainly in the playoff mix.

A trip to Middlesbrough isn’t ideal given how impressive Michael Carrick’s men have been though QPR looks a more comfortable game on paper even if Gareth Ainsworth’s men are fighting for their lives.

Swansea have little to play for but could be a banana skin, whilst a battle with West Bromwich Albion could go either way.

Blackpool at home on the final day seems fairly straightforward and PNE won’t want to be in a position of needing a favour from the Tangerines.

Coventry City v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship
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Coventry City remaining fixtures: Queens Park Rangers (A), Blackburn Rovers (A), Reading (H), Birmingham City (H), Middlesbrough (A).

The Sky Blues have a decent run-in, kicked off by a trip to struggling QPR.

Blackburn is a tough away trip but Reading at home is a game Mark Robins would expect to win, as is the home clash with rivals Birmingham City.

Middlesbrough away on the final day is difficult though and Coventry want want to be needing points from their trip to Teesside.

Sunderland Open Training
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Sunderland remaining fixtures: Birmingham City (H), Huddersfield Town (H), West Bromwich Albion (A), Watford (H), PNE (A).

Sunderland have a couple of favourable homes games against Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town, although the latter have really turned a corner under Neil Warnock and could cause problems.

Games against West Bromwich Albion and Watford are never easy but Tony Mowbray would love to take points off both of them.

The Black Cats finish up at Deepdale in what could even end up being a ‘win and you’re in’ situation.

West Bromwich Albion v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
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West Bromwich Albion remaining fixtures: Stoke City (A), Blackpool (A), Sunderland (H), Sheffield United (A), Norwich City (H), Swansea City (A).

We’ve included West Brom here as they do have a game in hand on PNE.

A game against rivals Stoke City could be tricky but the Baggies would expect to beat Blackpool on the road.

The next three are tricky though as West Brom host Sunderland and Norwich City either side of a trip to Sheffield United.

That’s two playoff chasers and a team gunning for automatic promotion, so PNE will be hoping they drop points in that run.

Swansea City away on the final day isn’t easy but you could hardly blame the Swans if their minds were on the beach by that point.

We never expected to see PNE in this mix but three straight wins have propelled us up the table.

The run-in isn’t easy but our rivals don’t have comfortable run-ins either, meaning there could be a few twists and turns to come.

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