PNE 3 Cardiff City 0
Tom Clarke became the first centre half to score since Paul Huntington at Wembley, opening the scoring with a hooked effort after Ben Wilson in the Cardiff goal had failed to claim a Marnick Vermijl cross and within five minutes it was two when Callum Robinson fired home after collecting a flick on from Jordan Hugill.
Hugill himself deserved a goal and he made it three with two minutes left, curling a beautiful finish - the goal of the night – into the top right hand corner from 25 yards out, capping off a superb performance from the Lilywhites.
The visitors had started brightly at a warm but wet Deepdale; played amid lightning and thunderstorms. Anders Lindegaard was needed to make a save from former Myerscough College student Anthony Pilkington only five minutes in, the forward collecting a slack PNE pass in the middle of the pitch allowing the No.13 to break into a right hand channel and fire goalwards.
But after that the rest of the first half belonged to North End and in reality it could have been more than two by the interval. The first chance saw a long throw from Vermijl on the right; won with his own direct run down the sideline; Hugill headed back the throw to Aidan McGeady, whose vicious shot was blocked by Bluebirds skipper Sean Morrison and then former Cardiff man Eoin Doyle’s follow up was also blocked by Bruno Manga.
Just before the 20 minute mark a free kick was awarded for foul on Robinson, 20 yards out; a low effort from Paul Gallagher was brilliantly saved by Ben Wilson diving low to his left.
McGeady then collected the ball on the edge of box and laid it left to Alan Browne, whose shot was spilled by Wilson, but claimed at the second attempt at the feet of an on-rushing Doyle.
But the goal finally came on 36 minutes. Two Gallagher shots were blocked 25 yards out after free kick cleared from the same man, the second produced a corner, which was initially cleared but the ball was put back in by Vermijl and skipper Tom Clarke stayed in the box, challenged Wilson and as the ball fell loose he hooked it over the keeper and into the roof of the net.
And like London buses a second goal came as quickly as the first. Five minutes had only run by and Robinson went on a great run and shot into the bottom right hand corner from 15 yards out giving Wilson no chance; this came after the No.37 collected a great flick on from Jordan Hugill from Anders Lindegaard’s long kick down field.
The visitors made two changes at the break, Paul Trollope replacing John and Huws with Whittingham and Noone.
But it was North End who had a chance to make it three just three minutes into the second period as Paul Gallagher beat the ball with a 30 yard free kick, but it smashed against the cross bar, after a positive run from Callum Robinson has been ended by a tackle from behind by Whittingham.
The visitors were much-improved after the break and substitute Noone brought a save from Lindegaard just before the hour mark after Rickie Lambert’s nod down from Peltier’s left hand cross.
Pilkington also forced the Dane into a strong stop with a rocket of a left footed effort with 18 minutes left after Peter Whittingham’s ball into the channel for the forward to run on to.
But the Lilywhites were still a threat and Wilson made a superb save to deny Greg Cunningham a goal with 16 minutes left, driving from half way and playing a one-two with Doyle before a low rocket, which Wilson palmed behind. From the corner Robinson shot from 15 yards, the ball ricocheting into the side netting with Wilson this time beaten.
Some brilliant running from midfield by McGeady brought another sharp save out of Wilson as the game entered the final ten minutes; latching onto a long ball and flick on from Hugill and firing low towards the bottom right hand corner until the keeper intervened to turn it behind for a corner.
But it was a deserved third for North End with two minutes left. The Lilywhites counter-attacked with pace and Jordan Hugill drove in from the left touchline and curled a beautiful finish into the top right hand corner from 25 yards giving Wilson no chance – put the icing on the cake of an excellent night for PNE.
PNE line-up: Lindegaard, Vermijl, Cunningham, Browne, Clarke (c), Baptiste, Robinson (Makienok, 86), Gallagher, Doyle (Humphrey, 77), Hugill (Johnson, 90), McGeady. Subs not used: Maxwell, Wright, Pringle, Welsh.
Cardiff City: Wilson, Peltier, Morrison (c), Ecuele Manga, Ralls (Gounongbe, 70), John (Whittingham, 46), Pilkington, Gunarsson, Lambert, Harris, Huws (Noone, 46). Subs not used: Amos, Richards, Immers, Connolly.
Attendance: 9,216 (215 Cardiff City fans)
Referee: Mr S Martin