Alex Neil’s Preston North End made it two wins from two in pre-season as goals from Jayden Stockley and Josh Ginnelly defeated Cork City 2-0 at Turner’s Cross.
The opener came on 39 minutes as Daniel Johnson tried to feed Tom Barkhuizen in a left channel, only for Enda O’Neill to slide in and divert the ball into the path of Stockley, who drove a left foot shot into the bottom corner.
The visitors were made to wait until five minutes from time to double their advantage; City keeper Tadgh Ryan making a number of world class saves and the woodwork getting in the way three times, before Ginnelly collected Cork-born Alan Browne’s cross from the right, checking inside from the left corner of the penalty area and curing a low shot into the bottom right hand corner from 15 yards out.
The goal was no more than the performance deserved, with PNE dominant in the second period – the scoreline ending much larger had it not been for the brilliance of the young Cork stopper.
Like the opening pre-season game three days earlier at Bamber Bridge, the manager went with two different XIs in each half, with Billy Bodin again looking sharp on his return from a year out and Louis Moult also impressing; leading the line in the second half.
The home side, three days before their Europa League qualifier first leg at home to Progres, started brightly and Darragh Rainsford got on the end of an outswinging right-hand corner, but was unable to trouble Declan Rudd.
Irishman Graham Burke was the first to actually get a shot on goal and he came close twice in the space of five minutes before the quarter hour mark; firstly forcing O’Neill into a block and then seeing Kavanagh do the same after a Jayden Stockley effort was scrambled away inside the six-yard box.
Mid-way through the first period and Daniel Johnson saw a shot blocked by Josh Honohan and then some good overlapping from Josh Earl down the left drove to the byline and drilled the ball into the six-yard box only for Gary Boylan to clear at the feet of Burke.
Before the half hour mark Josh Harrop was replaced by local boy Adam O’Reilly, the manager revealing afterwards that the No.10 had had a kick on the calf, but should only miss a few days’ worth of training.
Tom Barkhuizen switched over to the left after the substitution and drilled a shot from the left corner of the penalty area that Stockley almost gets a toe to, but the ball went inches wide of the right-hand post.
The pressure continued with some great play by Ben Pearson sending Stockley clear through the middle. He was upended 20 yards out. Burke getting the free kick through the wall, but it was cleared to the left where a cross came back in, only for keeper Ryan to save well from a header by skipper Tom Clarke.
O’Reilly showed some tenacious play in midfield, winning the ball 30 yards out in a central position, stepping forward and driving a shot narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
The opener finally came with six minutes to go until the interval. Johnson picked up the ball on the left and looked to thread the ball into Barkhuizen in the box, only for the defender to slide in force the ball into the feet of Stockley, who – with his weaker foot – stroked the ball into the bottom corner.
If the Lilywhites had done well in the first half, they were dominant in the second and could have scored a bagful of goals had the home goalkeeper not been inspired.
Louis Moult runs through from a lofted ball over the top; he takes his time, but is unable to keep his shot down and test Ryan.
His performance began two minutes into the half as he denied Louis Moult on the half-volley from the right corner of the area after a lovely through ball from second half captain Paul Gallagher; Josh Ginnelly also prevented from scoring on the follow up by Honohan.
On 50 minutes the side-netting was bulging after a volley from Moult after Andrew Hughes’ header from Billy Bodin’s cross was blocked.
And a minute later they went even closer, with Ginnelly showing quick dancing feet seeing him past four defenders to the edge of the six-yard box, only for a last-ditch block. The ball was kept alive and the the winger dragged a shot just wide from Moult’s knock down.
Just before the hour mark the woodwork was left shaking. A Ginnelly header was saved by Ryan and Bodin on the follow up rattled the post and then Moult was denied by the keeper again!
And again, the goal frame was hit as superb work from Alan Browne on the left, as he spun and played the ball into Moult 25 yards out and he arrowed a shot that seemed to be heading for the top right corner until a last split second deviation onto the corner of post and bar.
Another tremendous move and brilliant save from Ryan followed, this time Joe Rafferty found Moult who superbly reversed the ball inside for Bodin who fired from 18 yards, the stopper diving at full-stretch to his right to push the ball away.
With less than 15 minutes to go Browne was denied by Ryan, this time with a thumping effort from 25 yards. Cries of ‘sign him up’ from the PNE faithful behind the goal where the custodian was having a stormer being sung.
But, finally, the second goal came. Browne was freed by Bodin down the right-hand side of the penalty area; the Irishman clipped the ball into the left corner of the box where 'Gino' collected and stepped inside before curling into the bottom right hand corner of Ryan's goal to wrap up a thoroughly good performance and win.
Cork City line-up: Ryan, Bennett (O’Brien, 61), O’Neill (Bowdren, 71), Rainsford (Collins, 71), O’Connor, Dinanga, Byrne, Boylan (Meaney, 61), Honohan, Kavanagh, Crowley (Holland, 66). Subs not used: Cantwell, O’Brien-Whitmarsh.
PNE first half line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c), Earl, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen, Johnson, Burke, Harrop (O’Reilly, 26), Stockley.
PNE second half line-up: Ripley, Rafferty, Hughes, Ledson, Storey, Huntington, Bodin, Gallagher, Browne, Ginnelly, Moult.
Referee: Mr A Buttimer