2018 player of the year Alan Browne started the season with another goal to give the Lilywhites the three points at Deepdale.
The international midfielder headed home Josh Harrop’s left wing free kick five minutes into the second half and Alex Neil’s side managed the game superbly after that, going on to keep the clean sheet and start the new season with the win over visitors Queens Park Rangers.
The sun came out just before kick-off, bathing an all-new Deepdale at the start of another new campaign and there was certainly plenty of bright moments about the first half, as the Lilywhites has a lot of the ball and the best of the chances.
The first real opportunity came a dozen minutes into the season as the lively Harrop was the creator. The No.10 collected the ball out on the left and he curved a cross into Louis Moult 15 yards out, who in turn who laid the ball off for Tom Barkhuizen, whose shot was inches past the right hand upright, with Matt Ingram stranded.
At the half’s mid-point the visitors’ skipper Toni Leistner blocked a Callum Robinson shot from the edge of the ‘D’ after the frontman fired goalwards Moult’s lay off from Andrew Hughes’ ball in from the left after a positive overlap from the summer signing.
Just before the half hour mark Robinson had a shot from edge of the area that deflected off Osman Kakay for a corner, after an excellent ball from Darnell Fisher to send Barkhuizen away down the right and a low cross was put over to his opposite winger.
Six minutes before the interval there was a break from PNE, Barkhuizen taking the ball from half way, all the way down the right, cutting inside and drilling a low shot that Ingram tipped around the post.
The best chance for Steve McClaren’s side came three minutes before the break as Matt Smith had the big opportunity. Luke Freeman’s ball came in from the left, and the rangy frontman rose highest, but missed the target left of Declan Rudd’s right-hand upright. However, straight up the other end there was a superb block from Joel Lynch that denied Browne the opener.
But it took only five minutes after the interval for the deadlock to be broken. Hughes won a free kick out on the left and Harrop put the ball deep to the back post in front of the Town End; skipper Tom Clarke and Browne rose highest, with the Irish No.8 putting a looping header in that went over Ingram and the defenders on the line, just ending up under the corner of the post and bar and in the back of the net, much to the delight of the North End faithful.
Robinson was getting closer to his first of the season and with 20 minutes to go he forced Ingram to make a smart save low to his right to push a 20 yard effort away, which Scowen eventually cleared for a throw, with three PNE attackers advancing on the loose ball.
With a minute to go, Declan Rudd had not been called upon, but when he was, he was in fantastic form, making a superb save to deny substitute Idrissa Sylla at point-blank range eight yards out, after a Freeman free kick on the right – a truly superb stop.
There was five minutes of added time and much of it was played by North End with ten men, skipper Clarke seemingly suffering a blow to the head. But with all three substitutes already used Browne dropped into the backline.
It was a tense period, with over seven minutes played in the end, but North End took the win to start the season with three points.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Hughes, Pearson, Clarke (c), Davies, Robinson, Browne, Moult (Gallagher, 77), Harrop (Ledson, 83), Barkhuizen (Horgan, 71). Subs not used: Maxwell, Woods, Burke, Huntington.
QPR line-up: Ingram, Bidwell, Freeman, Eze, Scowen, Smith (Sylla, 77), Osayi-Samuel (Manning, 46), Luongo (Smyth, 66), Kakay, Lynch, Leistner (c). Subs not used: Lumley, Cousins, Washington, Baptiste.
Attendance: 13,418 (1,064 QPR fans)
Referee: Mr D England