First half goals from Joe Garner and Neil Kilkenny gave North End a win at Almondvale against SPL side Motherwell.
The Lilywhites made it four pre-season wins in a row and were one minute away from making it eight consecutive clean sheets going back to the Play-Off first leg at Chesterfield, however, they recorded a 2-1 triumph over Ian Barraclough's men, despite Louis Moult's 89th minute strike.
Garner opened the scoring for the Lilywhites, somewhat against the run of play just before the half hour, mark, glancing Paul Gallagher’s cross into the bottom left hand corner of the goal and within 90 seconds they doubled their tally when Kilkenny hit an arrowed drive into the top right hand corner from 25 yards after a clever one-two with Calum Woods on the left.
The Steelmen had created the better openings in the first 20 minutes, but North End were the more clinical in front of goal with the trio of Keane, Beckford and goalscorer Garner a constant threat on a dry sunny summer’s evening in Livingston.
The home side, all in black, had former North End and Northern Ireland midfielder Steve Robinson on their coaching staff and they started brightly with Marvin Johnson the biggest threat for Well.
On six minutes the midfield man curled a left footed effort over the bar and shortly after he dispossessed Gallagher in midfield he drove at heart of the PNE defence before shooting from the edge of box, but straight at Jamie Jones.
He finished a trio of first half chances with a goalbound effort in the 17th minute, running into the box and seeing his effort that was heading towards the bottom left hand corner blocked by Bailey Wright.
The Lilywhites, in their new home kit, started to come into the game after 30 minutes. Firstly skipper Tom Clarke had a header from a Gallagher corner that team-mate Beckford got in the way of on line.
Midfield man Gallagher then fired a free kick over the bar after Garner fouled on the edge of the ‘D’.
But the deadlock was broken on 28 minutes with the No.12 again involved, this time whipping over a cross from the right, that Joe Garner flicked a header past keeper Twardzik into the bottom left hand corner. The crossing opportunity came after a quickly taken throw in to Clarke, who fed Neil Kilkenny, who in turn played the ball quickly out to Gallagher for the delivery.
And the lead was doubled less than 90 seconds later with Neil Kilkenny this time on the scoresheet, a screamer from 25 yards into the top left hand corner of Twardzik’s goal, after the Australian had exchanged a one-two with full back Calum Woods on the left.
Jamie Jones was the busier of the keepers either side of half-time. Nine minutes before the interval Joe Chalmers saw a shot from 30 yards palmed wide by Jones at full stretch and the North End stopper was in fine form after the interval.
Eleven minutes after the break the No.21 made a one-handed save to deny Johnson from the right hand corner of box and just after the hour mark he excelled himself between the sticks further. On 61 minutes he made a brilliant point-blank save from Scott McDonald, pushing the ball onto the post from close range and at the half’s mid-way point he was again at full stretch to tip substitute Lionel Ainsworth’s 25 yard drive around the corner of post and bar.
Those chances sandwiched what was probably the best chance for a North End third as Jermaine Beckford was denied four yards out by the Scottish side’s custodian after a Garner cross from the left. From the resulting corner Gallagher took left wing corner that was met by Tom Clarke at the back post, his header a powerful effort, but straight at the keeper.
Louis Moult grabbed a consolation for Well in the penultimate minute, slamming home from the right hand corner of the six yard box after a quick break, but North End recorded another win to continue their positive preparations for the new season.
: Twardzik, Law, Hammell, McManus (Watt, 65), Laing, Pearson, Johnson (Ainsworth, 67), Chalmers (Moore, 79), Lasley (Clarkson, 73), Fletcher (Moult, 73), McDonald (Leitch, 62). Subs not used: Trialist (gk).Motherwell line-up
: Jones, Clarke (c), Woods (Davies, 59), Kilkenny (Welsh, 72), Wright, Huntington, Keane (Hugill, 83), Johnson (Browne, 80), Beckford (Reid, 72), Garner (Little, 72), Gallagher (Brownhill, 80). Subs not used: James.PNE line-up
: Mr J BeatonReferee