Can Preston North End go all the way this season?

Despite disappointing home draws in their last two matches against struggling opposition, Preston sit comfortably in fourth position in League One.

The Lilywhites are 11 points above seventh place Sheffield United, but are still seven points off an automatic promotion spot. No win in four league matches leaves North End with a lot to do in order to secure a top two finish, but are more than capable of achieving promotion in the play-offs.

Simon Grayson has changed things around since joining as manager in February 2013. Preston were struggling before Grayson secured mid-table comfort and last season they secured a play-off position before losing to eventual winners Rotherham in the semi-finals. Now in their fourth season in League One after two mid-table finishes before Grayson took over, he looks like he is taking the club on the right track with promotion to the Championship vital in this campaign.

To say Preston are missing top scorer Joe Garner would be an understatement. He was far and away their best player and top scorer last season with 19 League One goals and 24 in all competitions. Garner began this season in the same way with 12 goals in 20 matches before injury ruled him out for around for months back in November. Jermaine Beckford and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake have been brought in since to fill the void left by Garner and, although these two are proven strikers at Championship level, it looks as though time is needed for them to become regular scorers at Preston.

One man who continues to be a stand-out performer for Preston is on-loan Leicester City forward Paul Gallagher. The 30-year-old has proven week in,week out that he is too good for League One and would be more than useful in the Championship. He played over a 100 times for Leicester after joining in 2009, scoring 25 times.

But after finding himself out of favour at the East Midland outfit, he joined Preston on loan last season where he was a key component that helped the club reach the play-offs. He scored six times last season and has five goals to his name far this term. Although he is capable of playing up front, he is used more as an advanced playmaker for Preston. The Scottish international has the ability to play just behind the striker or out wide, and has been a creative presence throughout his time at Deepdale.

With his contract at Leicester expiring in the summer, Preston would love to keep him. With the Foxes on the cusp of returning to the Championship, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to look into the possibility of keeping Gallagher, given his experience and knowhow at that level.

With a host of quality attacking options at this level, and Joe Garner due to come back next month, there is still plenty of hope for Preston to finally make it back to the Championship. Even an automatic position isn’t totally out of the question, with a play-off position almost guaranteed already.

Whatever the position in the top six, Preston will be fighting all the way for promotion.

 


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