Since the turn of the year, what was looking like a middling season for Preston North End has transformed into a promotion push. Only behind Aston Villa (and outside the play-off zone) on goal-difference, the Lilywhites have become a tough prospect.
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A dozen games have been and gone since Preston last lost. For Reading, our return to action this weekend is the start of our run-in – a busy five weeks in which twists and turns will abound.
“Now we’re at the start of a busy moment,” said Royals boss José Gomes. “First it’s Preston, but then it’s six games in 21 days. It’s full of games in April. We’re ready for that.
“Right now, all of our focus is on Preston. It’ll be tough, like all the games in the Championship, but we’re facing a team that haven’t lost any of their last 12 games and have won all of their last six away matches.
“They are in a good moment. We have to beat them as a team. That will be tough, as they are full of confidence, but we also know that we need the points for us. Draws are not enough. So we must show that really want these three points.
“A lot is left to be decided, and we are trying to find the best for us. We really believe that we will achieve what we want. Our players have improved a lot, the team dynamic is better. The number of fans at Madejski Stadium is increasing – things are positive around us. And now we need to give the club what it deserves – to win, and stay in a safe position.”
The Lilywhites’ run of form has been about picking off their opponents by slender scorelines, as Gomes was keen to highlight.
Five goals in their last four games have yielded 10 points as they continue their charge.
“Preston are organised defensively and they don’t lose their balance,” he continued. “The number of players that they involve in attacks is not very high – they really protect themselves, so that the moment they lose the ball, they are prepared to stop the counter.
“They are not a team that takes risk when they attack; that’s why they have got these results. In their recent run, they have not scored a big number of goals – but they have not conceded many either. They are difficult to score against.
“If you pause the videos, you can see that there can be five, six or seven players behind the ball. We must be aware of this – no spaces, a strong team that press high, not leaving gaps between the lines and being aggressive in their defensive task.
“A tough team – but until the end, we only have tough games. The important thing for us is to get three points, no matter the name of the opponent or how they will play.”
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