With 15 games to go, Preston have put themselves in the mix for promotion.
Saturday’s 2-1 win at Wigan Athletic sent North End back into the top six, ahead of Bristol City on goal difference. Preston have dropped just four points in the last five games, and are in a strong position with a third of the season to play.
There are tough games to come – trips to West Bromwich Albion and Fulham come at the end of this month, whilst three of the last four games are against Nottingham Forest, Brentford and Bristol City.
Still, Preston have a chance, and that’s all you can ask for at this stage of the season; to be in with a shot of going up. It’s looking like the playoffs will be North End’s best bet, but the automatic race has suddenly opened up.
Leeds United’s 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest means Preston are just five points off second place now, and whilst North End may not have the firepower to get up there and stay there, you just can’t rule out Alex Neil.
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After all, he’s been here before. Neil took Norwich City to the Premier League in 2015, mounting a late charge for the playoffs before winning the Wembley showdown to make it to the top flight.
Neil will be hoping for a repeat this season, whether that’s in the top two or in the playoffs, and pundit Paul Merson hasn’t ruled out an automatic push for North End.
Speaking on The Debate on Monday night, Merson admitted that it’s ‘going to be hard’, but thinks Preston do have a chance of reaching the top two, believing that 10 wins from now until the end of the season would get the job done.
That’s a big ask for Preston, but with everybody beating everybody in the Championship, there’s at least a chance.
“It’s going to be hard, but I would put Bristol City and Preston both in that,” said Merson. “I think, with 15 games to go, if you win 10 football matches and you’ll go up; I really do, because everybody beats everybody and 10 wins will be enough,” he added.