The Alex Neil era at Preston North End began as they put Bamber Bridge to the sword at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
First half goals from Ben Davies – via a deflection – Stevie May and Callum Robinson put the Lilywhites ahead at the break and despite a complete change of team the goals continued to flow in the second half, with Tom Barkhuizen, a brace from Jordan Hugill and Melle Meulensteen making it seven.
Whilst the new North End gaffer sat in the stand to watch his new side in action, it was Steve Thompson and Alan Kelly in the dug out and all their plans had to change just 13 minutes in when they lost summer signing Declan Rudd through injury.
The goalkeeper had already at that point saved what would prove to be Brig’s only shot on target of the evening, tipping Brad Carsley’s curling effort from the left hand corner of the penalty area over the bar.
This early test from the hosts was their only real moment of magic on a night where the visitors looked sharp, despite only being eight days into their preparations for the new campaign.
Ben Davies had already flicked one effort, from a Paul Gallagher free kick, wide of the right hand upright when he rose to head home Callum Robinson’s right wing corner, via the boot of the home side’s Danny Forbes, who sliced the ball out of the reach of his goalkeeper Lloyd Rigby for the opener.
From this point forward the blue-shirted Lilywhites looked like they could carve open their non-league opponents at will. Stevie May dragged a volley from Liam Grimshaw’s pull back wide of the left hand post before the Scottish forward found almost the exact same spot having been this time fed by a lively Robinson from the right.
But the two combined again on 35 minutes to double PNE’s total, Robinson showing fast feet to feed the frontman, who fired through a defender’s legs into the bottom right hand corner.
It was 3-0 just before the interval when a Paul Gallagher cross from the right hand side was met by Robinson, who looped a header over Rigby and in off the cross bar, for a deserved goal for the No.37.
A full change of XI at half-time didn’t slow North End’s progress, as goal number four came on 55 minutes. Marnick Vermijl delivered a cross from the right to Jordan Hugill. His initial header was saved by Rigby, but the ball found Tom Barkhuizen, unmarked in the six yard box, and he poked home from close range.
His strike partner Hugill was next in on the act, doing all the hard work himself with a driving run through the middle, going past a defender and goalkeeper Rigby. It looked like he might have overrun the ball, but managed to check back from the right of the goal and buried his shot into the bottom right corner from ten yards out with his left foot.
Young midfielder Melle Meulentseen got his name of the scoresheet with ten minutes to go, calmly sliding home after Barkhuizen had shown a clean pair of heals to the home defence before squaring the ball to the unmarked man, who had celebrated his 18th birthday on the same had as the assist maker’s birthday earlier on in the week.
And there was only two minutes wait before the seventh and final goal of the night and it was probably the best that was saved until last, a lovely lay off by Barkhuizen once again for Hugill, who collected and curled an effort into the bottom right hand corner of the goal from the left hand corner of the penalty area.
Hugill almost had his hat-trick, only to be denied by a smart tip over of the new No.9’s header, after he had arched his neck to get a powerful effort onto Ben Pearson’s stand up cross from the right, but he had to settle for two and the team seven.
Bamber Bridge line-up: Rigby, Kay (Staunton-Turner, 46), Dodd, Lawlor (c), Doughty, Potts (Riley, 61), Linney (Gregory, 46), Forbes (Ekpolo, 46), Carsley (Wiles, 78), Milligan (Mahoney, 46), Marow (Stammers, 61). Sub not used: Jones.
PNE line-up: Rudd (Roberts, 13 (Maxwell, 46)), Grimshaw (Vermijl, 46), Earl (Cunningham, 46), Gallagher (c) (Pearson, 46), Boyle (Huntington, 46), Davies (Spurr, 46), Robinson (Meulensteen, 46), Johnson (Browne, 46), Doyle (Hugill, 46), May (Barkhuizen, 46), Horgan (Pringle, 46). Sub not used: Lyons.
Referee: Mr D McNamara