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Pundit predicts Preston to miss playoffs, but thinks Daniel Johnson is performing 'up a level'

Preston’s push for the playoffs resumes tonight, with Alex Neil taking his side to the bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City.

Saturday’s win over Wigan Athletic took North End back into the top six, and Tuesday’s results went well for North End as Leeds United drew at Brentford, whilst Nottingham Forest lost at home to Charlton.

Preston North End’s Tom Barkhuizen celebrates scoring against Wigan Athletic. (Photo by Stephen White – CameraSport via Getty Images)

If Preston can win tonight, the push for promotion will truly be on – yet despite being in the top six with just a third of the season to go, Preston aren’t really getting the respect they deserve as a promotion-hunting side.

The conversation is largely West Brom, Leeds, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Brentford. The Mirror’s big promotion analysis didn’t even mention Preston; Cardiff City and Derby County were included though.

Darren Bent has now offered his prediction for the top six. The former England striker thinks West Brom and Fulham are going up automatically, with Leeds, Brentford, Forest and Bristol City in the playoffs.

Daniel Johnson of Preston North End celebrates after scoring against Wigan Athletic. (Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Bent, speaking to The Times, claimed that Preston will finish seventh for the second time in the last three seasons, just missing out on a playoff spot.

Bent did though praise playmaker Daniel Johnson, claiming he has taken his performances ‘up a level’ this season, believing that his former Aston Villa teammate could yet be the difference for Preston in pursuit of a top six finish.

“It is no surprise that they have looked better and won three of their past four games since Daniel Johnson returned from injury,” said Bent. “I know Daniel from his time at Aston Villa but it feels like he has taken his performances up a level this season, in part because Alex Neil has pushed him higher up the pitch. He has scored ten goals and created a further five, his highest tally at the club. If he can continue and stay clear of injury, he may be the difference to keep them in the top six,” he added.

North End have been written off before, and no doubt will be again between now and the end of the season. Alex Neil and co will relish that underdog tag, and hope to prove Bent and others wrong.

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