The Championship resumes once again this evening, and the battle for promotion is hotting up.
Preston aren’t in action until Wednesday, but Nottingham Forest take on Charlton Athletic whilst the big game sees Brentford take on Leeds United in a top of the table bout.
With 15 games to go, it’s all to play for. There is no runaway leader, though you have to fancy West Brom to go up now they’ve opened up a four-point gap at the top.
After that though, it’s anyone’s game. Leeds have stumbled of late, winning just two of their last 10 Championship games, meaning they’re now only ahead of Fulham on goal difference, with Forest just a point behind and Brentford only two adrift.
Then you come to Preston. North End sit sixth, occupying that final play-off spot as things stand. We’re now just five points adrift of Leeds, and whilst beating Fulham, Forest, Brentford and even Bristol City to that second spot is a tough ask, it’s not impossible.
Leeds having a mini-slump has given sides like North End hope of really piling the pressure on, but when any team has a blip like this, you think about the points dropped as much as you think of the opportunity to close the gap.
Over Christmas and New Year, North End simply dropped too many points. The 0-0 draw at Cardiff City should have been a victory, and we were minutes away from a 1-0 win at Elland Road before being pegged back.
Home defeats at the hands of Reading and Middlesbrough were a huge shock, and two points from a possible 12 was far from ideal. Even turning one of those draws into a win would have left North End in a great position, whilst home defeats to two bottom-half sides – especially given our record at Deepdale this season – feel like missed opportunities.
Preston still have a great chance to really push for the upper echelons of the league table in the final third of the season, but with Leeds stumbling, you can’t help but look at that small patch of games as a point where North End may regret dropped points, even if we’re now chipping away at the deficit.
With games to come at West Brom, Fulham, Brentford and Bristol City as well as a home clash with Nottingham Forest, there are more than enough chances to claw those points back – and with Preston hitting form again, you simply can’t rule out Alex Neil’s men.