Sean Maguire introduced himself to the PNE faithful with an impressive solo goal on his home debut against Burnley.
The Irish striker was introduced at half-time, less than 48 hours after arriving in the country, and scored just 21 minutes in to half at Deepdale, however, two set piece goals gave the visitors the win.
Fellow Irishman Jon Walters headed home from close range after Robbie Brady’s free kick mid-way through the first half and another excellent delivery by Brady also brought the second, Kevin Long heading home the No.12’s corner eight minutes after the interval.
The three goalscorers were all from the Emerald Isle and ten of the outfield players who featured on the night were eligible to be selected, hence the presence of the Republic’s assistant manager Roy Keane in the crowd.
But it was home grown talent Josh Earl who created the first opportunity, his cross from the left bringing a shot from Eoin Doyle, which required a good block from Long.
Daniel Johnson almost opened the scoring eight minutes in when the Lilywhites’ first corner came out to him on the edge of the box, but the former Villa man’s shot ricocheted off Josh Harrop – making his first start – and England goalkeeper Tom Heaton smothered a save at the feet of Doyle.
But the opener came for the Clarets on 21 minutes. A controversial foul was awarded close to the left touchline mid-way inside the North End half and Brady delivered a superb cross to the back post which Long headed across goal to give Walters, a summer signing from Stoke City, the easiest of headers from two yards out.
Long showed his aerial abilities and danger just after half-time, heading a Brady corner against the inside of the left hand post, in front of the Burnley fans, but he wasn’t to be denied shortly after when another outswinger from the left found his head and he powered the ball into the bottom left hand corner from 12 yards out.
This second half second strike of the game, for Sean Dyche’s men, came somewhat against the run of play, as North End, driven by the lively Maguire, had started the latter period brightly.
The in-form former Cork City man brought the home fans off their feet on 66 minutes. After collecting the ball 45 yards out in a left hand channel, he had only one focus, making a driving run towards the box, before dropping his shoulder twice to sell two Burnley defenders the dummy, then firing hard and low into the bottom left hand corner of Nick Pope’s goal to halve the deficit.
Alan Browne was close to levelling matters shortly after, a lick one touch passing move finding the young international midfielder on the right hand edge of the ‘D’, but his shot was dragged just wide of the left hand post.
It was another Irishman who went closest to getting the game’s fourth goal in the closing stages, Daryl Horgan with a curling left foot effort beating half-time substitute Pope, but landing on the roof of the net from 20 yards, after some more incisive passing by Alex Neil’s midfield.
However, a fourth goal didn’t come, nonetheless it was another good work out for PNE as they prepare for their opening Sky Bet Championship fixture with Sheffield Wednesday in just ten days’ time.
PNE line-up: Maxwell (Hudson, 75), Grimshaw, Earl (O’Connor, 46), Welsh (c) (Pearson, 46), Boyle, Spurr, Horgan, Johnson (Browne, 46), Pringle (Barkhuizen, 69), Doyle (Robinson, 75), Harrop (Maguire, 46). Subs not used: Vermijl, Cunningham, Meulensteen.
Burnley line-up: Heaton (Pope, 46), Lowton (C Long, 81), Taylor (Ward, 71), Cork (Hendrick, 64), Vokes (Gray, 81), Brady (Barnes, 71), Berg Gudmundsson (Ulvestad, 75), Westwood (Defour, 64), Walters (Agyei, 81), K Long (Mee, 64), Anderson.
Attendance: 5,633 (1,755 Burnley fans)
Referee: Mr R Jones