First half goals from skipper Tom Clarke and Louis Moult got North End’s pre-season campaign off to a winning start against Bamber Bridge at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
As with previous seasons, manager Alex Neil chose to put out two different XIs in each half, with the likes of Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop getting their first 45 minutes after injury and Patrick Bauer also made his debut in a lilywhite shirt.
It was a glorious afternoon at Irongate, with an excellent crowd in attendance and they witnessed the home side have the first real attempt on goal, Ryan White shooting wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the penalty area.
But within two minutes of that chance, PNE – wearing their new home kit – were in front. It came from a Josh Harrop corner from the left, flicked on by Moult and Clarke rushed in at the back post to poke home from close range.
Harrop looked sharp on his return and he put a header from Tom Barkhuizen’s cross just wide of Danny Roccia’s right-hand upright within seconds of the tenth minute opener.
Just after the quarter of hour mark, Graham Burke, back from his loan at Gillingham, twice went close to a second. Firstly, from another Barkhuizen pull back, he hit the base of the left-hand post and as it came back to him the Irishman back-heeled goalwards, only to run agonisingly on the line before being cleared.
On the half hour mark Burke was again denied a goal on his return, this time his shot – that ended up in the back of the net – deflecting off the arm of Jordan Storey and a free kick being awarded for handball.
But on 34 minutes it was two. Great work again by Burke, saw the No.19 run from deep right up to the edge of the penalty area before a back heel freed Moult, who slammed the ball into the bottom left hand corner from 15 yards out.
After the break, home keeper Roccia proved the difference between the scoreline getting larger, making a number of excellent saves.
Firstly, he denied Jayden Stockley at close range, before former North End youth team product Matt Dudley did a great job in the wall to block a goalbound free kick from Bodin.
Roccia then made another fine stop to deny Alan Browne, with Bodin inches away with a follow up shot with his left foot, curling an effort from the edge of the box just wide of the left hand post.
Brig skipper Matt Lawlor made a superb block with 11 minutes to go to deny Browne after Gallagher’s cross-field ball to Bodin had then been turned inside for the overlapping Rafferty to pull the ball back for last season’s second top scorer.
The Bamber Bridge No.1 made two more excellent stops in the closing stages, firstly at the feet of Ginnelly and then in the final minute a Bodin cross from the right was again met by Stockley, the ball coming back off the foot of the left-hand post to make the game remain
Bamber Bridge line-up: Roccia, Churchman, Thomas, Lawlor, Charnock, Forbes, Dudley, Wisdom, Waddecar, Booth, White. Subs: Doughty, Pett, Buchan, Spooner, Maddox, Sanogo Fofana, Roberts, Barton.
PNE first half: Ripley, Clarke (c), Hughes, Ledson, Storey, Davies, Burke Barkhuizen, Harrop, Johnson, Moult.
PNE second half: Rudd, Rafferty, Earl, Pearson, Huntington, Bauer, Bodin, Gallagher (c), Ginnelly, Browne, Stockley.
PNE subs not used: Hudson, O’Reilly, Baxter, Armer, Simpson.
Referee: Mr G Salisbury
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