Second half goals from Eoin Doyle and Jordan Hugill put the Lilywhites securely in the third round of the EFL Cup with victory over Steve Robinson’s Oldham Athletic at Deepdale.
Six changes from the win at QPR the previous weekend didn’t halt the side’s momentum as debutant goalkeeper Chris Maxwell was rarely tested in goal for North End.
The opener came just six minutes after Doyle had come on, turning on the penalty spot and firing low into the bottom corner after Greg Cunningham’s driven ball across from the left.
And then the Irish No.13 turned provider after robbing the Latics keeper on the right hand side and crossing into the box for Hugill to head home the second, securing the victory in the closing ten minutes.
In the first half, the best of the chances both came from Ben Pringle free kicks. The midfield man was forced off just before the half hour mark with a foot injury, but before that he had a chance to cross from both sides of the pitch and on both occasions Hugill rose highest.
From the first he headed straight at the Latics’ on loan keeper Connor Ripley, however, the second time he got power into a downward effort and the man on a year-long loan from Middlesbrough had to get down to save superbly at the foot of the left hand post to keep the goalless.
Hugill made it a hat-trick of headed chances seven minutes after the interval when Chris Maxwell – on debut – arrowed a ball downfield for Simon Makienok – making his first start – to flick on for Hugill to get in behind the right back and head across goal, beating Ripley, but also beating the right hand upright in front of the Town End.
Just before the hour mark the Lilywhites got even closer. This time, Alan Browne, who had replaced the injured Pringle, got on the end of another Makienok nod down and fired a snap shot on the half volley, but the Irishman dragged his right-footed effort just wide of the left hand post.
Chris Maxwell was called into action for the first time immediately after Browne’s shot as Oldham counter-attacked and Lee Erwin, on loan from Leeds, forced the No.22 to make a smart two-handed stop to keep out the 20 yard drive.
On the hour mark Simon Grayson made a double change, Doyle and Callum Robinson replacing Makienok and John Welsh in a switch to 3-4-3.
And the opener came not long after, with the subs making an immediate impact. A long ball was driven down to Hugill, who flicked the ball on for Greg Cunningham to overlap; he drilled the ball across the penalty area and Doyle controlled, spun and shot into the bottom right hand corner from 12 yards out.
It could have been two with 15 minutes left as Hugill and Robinson combined, with the former meeting the cross of the No.37 to drive a shot goalwards, only for Peter Clarke to get a last ditch block in and take the ball wide for a corner.
And it was two with nine minutes left. This time some fantastic work from Doyle pressurised Ripley and robbed him of the ball out on the right, allowing the Irish striker to cross into a box with no keeper where Hugill rose highest to powerfully head into the empty net.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Clarke (c), Huntington, Cunningham; Humphrey, Pearson, Welsh (Robinson, 60), Pringle (Browne, 27); Makienok (Doyle, 60), Hugill. Subs not used: Hudson, Johnson, Grimshaw, Davies.
Oldham Athletic line-up: Ripley, Law (McLaughlin, 67), Wilson, Burgess, Klok (Green, 46), Banks (Osei, 70), Cassidy, Erwin, Fane, P Clarke (c), Dunne. Subs not used: Kettings, Flynn, Croft, Edmundson, Osei.
Attendance: 5,075 (751 Oldham Athletic fans)
Referee: Mr S Duncan