Preston continued the stunning push for the play-offs on Saturday afternoon, beating Birmingham City 1-0 at Deepdale.
After six away wins in a row, it was time for North End to turn up at home. Just one win in the previous five home games was a concern, with two 0-0 draws in there.
Deep into added time, it looked like Preston were limping towards another 0-0 draw, having been frustrated by Birmingham. However, Seani Maguire popped up in the 94th minute to grab all three points for North End, sending Deepdale into delirium.
It’s now 12 games unbeaten with eight wins in that run. North End sit seventh, outside of the top six on goal difference. Since October 1st, Preston are averaging more than 1.8 points a game; a frankly staggering record.
Now, that momentum gets broken. The international break is upon us, with no game until facing Reading in two weeks. That may be a concern to many; having such a sensational run disrupted is hardly ideal. There will also be added concern that Maguire is off on international duty – a regular source of injury for the striker.
Yet really, this break has come at a good time for North End. Alex Neil’s men have put so much into this run, and tired legs have been a factor on a couple of occasions.
The break not only gives North End time to work Callum Robinson, Louis Moult, Brad Potts, Tom Clarke and Tom Barkhuizen back to full fitness, but also a break to deal with some other fitness concerns.
Paul Gallagher missed out yesterday, and Andrew Hughes went off with an injury. They are two mainstays of the Preston side, and Neil will be relieved that the pair have time to heal up and recover.
There’s also time for everyone to take stock of the club’s situation. When North End come back, they’ll have eight games left; eight games to break into those play-off places and make this run worthwhile. Key, season-defining fixtures against Sheffield United, Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion are imminent; fresh legs will be needed for such games.
Fans, players and staff should be looking at this as a welcome break before one final push. It’s a brief time for everybody to recharge mentally and physically ahead of what could be a frantic end to the campaign. Momentum is a fine thing, and Preston still have it, but should come out of the break ready and raring to go.