Preston North End recorded their first win of the season with a thumping home win over local rivals Wigan Athletic at Deepdale.
Goals from forwards Sean Maguire and Louis Moult gave the Lilywhites a half-time lead, before a stunning Paul Gallagher free kick put the game beyond doubt before the hour mark.
Manager Alex Neil had made four changes from the side that faced Millwall on the opening day of the season, with Moult going straight into the starting line-up, Maguire moving out to the left and Daniel Johnson playing the No.10 role behind the forwards.
And from the off the home side were on the front foot and early pressure brought the opening goals. There were four corners in the space of two minutes. The first saw Moult head Gallagher’s right wing ball into the six yard box, only for Cedric Kipre to deflect Maguire’s header over the bar.
From the third Gallagher delivery the ball was worked short and out to Ben Pearson who unleashed a vicious 25 yard strike that looked destined for the top corner, only for former PNE favourite Joe Garner to take the ball flush in the face – he would less than 20 minutes later leave the field through concussion suffered in the incident.
From the resulting corner from this shot the opening goal came. This time Gallagher delivered from the left and Louis Moult’s run left space for Maguire to angle a glancing header past David Marshall into the right side of the goal, beating Lewis MacLeod in the air.
Moult met another Gallagher cross and went close with a looping header, that forced Scottish stopper Marshall to scramble back to take high above his head, but at the other end Decland Rudd was also in fine form.
Just before the quarter hour mark the North End No.1 was needed to make a stop at full-stretch to deny Josh Windass from 20 yards, after a ball across the box found its way to the dangerous Latics No.10.
And moments later the PNE custodian was again forced to dive away to his left, this time seeing the ball late, as a curling right-foot effort from MacLeod from 25 yards out was heading towards the bottom corner until a strong left hand forced the ball behind for the corner.
But these proved rare opportunities for the visitors, with North End the dominant force in the game. Just after the half’s mid-point some great play by Billy Bodin and Johnson down the left saw a quick one-two, with Johnson’s quick feet seeing him in on goal, only for Marshall to claim superbly at the No.11’s feet.
But the former Villa man was at the heart of a lot of good things for PNE and he created the second goal. Having picked up the ball down the left, he created space before – with many calling for the ball to be played back to Gallagher – he saw the run of Moult into space and a cross from the left found the striker perfectly, his cushioned header beating Marshall into the bottom left hand corner in front of the deflated away fans.
The key going into the second half was for Alex Neil’s men to keep things tight and, not only did they do that, but they extended their lead in the 54th minute, with the goal of the game.
Sean Maguire was brought down by right back Nathan Byrne right on the left corner of the penalty area. Johnson laid the ball off slightly for Gallagher, who viciously curled a beautiful shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal, giving Marshall no chance and ending the game as a contest.
The home side tried to repeat the previous season’s scoreline against Wigan, by doing everything they could to add a fourth. The closest being in the final minute of normal time, when Jayden Stockley, on for Moult, flicked a ball from Patrick Bauer on for Bodin to beat Marshall too, rounding the keeper, but he was unable to find the target from a tight angle with his right foot.
However, three goals was more than good enough to record a positive opening home performance and result, giving them a richly deserved three points.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher (Clarke, 74), Hughes, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Bodin, Gallagher (Browne, 68), Moult (Stockley, 78), Johnson, Maguire. Subs not used: Ripley, Green, Barkhuizen, Potts.
Wigan Athletic line-up: Marshall, Byrne, Robinson, MacLeod, Fox (c) (Lowe, 63), Evans, Windass, Garner (Moore, 26), Jacobs (Williams, 72), Kipre, Naismith. Subs not used: Jones, Massey, , Dunkley, Gelhardt.
Attendance: 14,789 (2,945 Wigan Athletic fans)
Referee: Mr J Simpson