The play-offs are in full flow up and down the Football League, settling the promotion fates of clubs around the country.
League Two’s final is already set. Newport County will meet Tranmere Rovers at Wembley Stadium later this month, knocking out Mansfield Town and Forest Green Rovers respectively.
Mansfield’s failure to go up has already been met with a swift move. Manager David Flitcroft has been sacked, despite narrowly missing out on automatic promotion.
Mansfield will also lose Nottingham Forest loanee Tyler Walker, and it remains to been if more go. One man set to spark huge interest though is CJ Hamilton – a player North End have eyed.
In January, The Sun’s Phil Cadden reported that North End had failed with a £750,000 bid for Hamilton. Football Insider added that Preston are keeping close tabs on Hamilton, who has starred this season.
Hamilton ended the season with 13 goals in 53 games, as well as racking up nine assists. Heading into the first leg with Newport, Hamilton was one of the players to watch.
Hamilton featured as a left wing back in the first leg, and he scored a fine goal to give Mansfield the lead. Hamilton was able to make supporting runs on the overlap, and he did just that for his goal before smashing home a superb finish.
Hamilton showed his versatility by playing further forward late on, and it was a similar case in the second leg. Yet after impressing with his goal in the first leg, Hamilton showed there’s still work to be done.
He squandered a golden chance by blazing over the bar when in goal, the sort of chance that needs to be taken. In the end, that miss cost Mansfield dearly. Hamilton did at least create a couple of great openings for Walker when pushed up top, using his blistering pace to great effect.
The 23-year-old showed his qualities and his deficiencies over the two legs, which North End will have surely watched. He’s the sort of talent Preston may still want though, at the right price.
His versatility is valuable, and he brings the pace that North End lack without Tom Barkhuizen. His technical ability needs some work, which must be considered if Preston bid, but there is certainly enough to suggest that Hamilton could be a smart signing this summer.