Kevin Davies marked his home debut with a goal as North End and Blackburn played an entertaining friendly at Deepdale
The game ended level with DJ Campbell levelling up the PNE No.9's opener nine minutes before the interval with both sides giving a lot of players 90 vital minutes.
Davies announced himself to the North End faithful after only five minutes, bravely putting his head amongst the feet in the six yard box to head home Lee Holmes’ inswinging corner.
It was a goal their performance in the first half hour deserved as they played at high tempo with good intensity; moving the ball quickly and everyone wanting the ball.
The opener had come after an initial free kick was awarded and floated into the box from the left by John Welsh, but the visitors could only head behind to give North End the decisive corner in front of the Rovers fans gathered in the Bill Shankly Kop.
Davies, a former Blackburn player, threw himself into the are Holmes had delivered the left wing cross towards and met it perfectly, powering low to Jake Kean’s outstretched left hand much to the delight of the home crowd.
Despite North End’s excellence in the opening half hour, Declan Rudd was forced to make a couple of fine saves, firstly denying Scotland hitman Jordan Rhodes on eight minutes, the man who played under Simon Grayson at Huddersfield, dived in the same way as Davies at the other end, onto DJ Campbell’s cross and then on the follow up former PNE loanee Josh King fired high and wide with the goal gaping!
Five minutes later and the on loan custodian made another fine save, this time to deny Jason Lowe after Alan Judge’s ball in from the left.
But it was North End who were playing the better stuff and on 17 minutes Davies was again in the thick of the action and was brought down on right hand corner of box; Lee Holmes had the free kick a yard outside the apex, and Rovers could only half clear his cross which fell to Bailey Wright on the edge of the box, but he couldn’t control his left footed volley and it flew over the bar.
The visitors drew level somewhat against the run of play nine minutes before the break. North End gave the ball away cheaply, on a rare occasion, in the centre of midfield, and another former PNE man Todd Kane raced down the right and fired a shot from 25 yards; Declan Rudd parried it away but ex-Blackpool forward DJ Campbell was on hand to divert the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
Gary Bowyer's side started the second half well and Jordan Rhodes got onto the end of Josh King's pull back five minutes into the half, but the Lilywhites backline made sure they were able to see it out without Declan Rudd being pulled into the action again.
The second half was a bit of a reverse of the first, the visitors starting well in the opening 15 minutes, but North End got stronger as the game got older and on 66 minutes Tom Clarke spun and shot brilliantly goalwards as the ball bobbled about in the box after another Holmes free kick, but Scott Dann did brilliantly on the line to get a head to the goalbound effort and divert it away, with Jake Kean beaten.
North End had raised the tempo again in the run up to that chance and continued to maintain it afterwards - Jack King, a half-time replacement for John Welsh who had come out worse in a 50/50 with Alex Marrow during the first half, looked good in his favoured position in the middle of the park and got on the ball as often as possible, looking to keep play moving and switching wings quickly to keep North End's options open.
The expected changes came with 20 minutes left, Huntington and Hayhurst the first two on for North End; Keane and Kevin Davies replaced and the pace flattened after all the changes with both sides in the end happy with the work out, albeit Ryan Croasdale came closest to giving PNE the win with a superb half volley from 25 yards in the final seconds.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Keane (Huntington, 71), Buchanan (Laird, 86), Welsh ©(King, 46), Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Byrom, 78), Wroe, K Davies (Hayhurst, 72), Mousinho (Croasdale, 86), Holmes. Subs not used: Stuckmann,Cummins, Monakana, Cansdell-Sherriff, Beardsley.
: Kean, Kane, Kilgallon, Marrow (O'Sullivan, 73), Hanley, Dann ©, King (Payne, 83), Lowe, Campbell (Taylor, 45), Judge, Rhodes. Subs not used: Urwin, O’Sullivan, Payne.Blackburn Rovers line-up
: Mr D BondReferee
: 5,773 (1,563 away fans)Attendance