A second half strike by substitute Ash Hunter gave Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town a narrow win as many of the North End side completed 90 minutes.
David Nugent played for 45 minutes on his return to the Lilywhites, 12 years since he last pulled on a PNE shirt in a competitive game at Highbury, but he was unable to record a win in his first game back.
After a slow first 20 minutes, with neither side in the ascendency and the goalkeepers untroubled, the Lilywhites started to gain a foothold and good play by Nugent down the right-hand side of the penalty area brought a chance, with his cross eventually collected by Josh Earl, who delivered back across for Jayden Stockley to cushion the ball down to Graham Burke, whose left foot volley was well blocked by Harry Souttar near the penalty spot.
And it was the same combination that almost brought an opener five minutes before half-time. This time an excellent harrying job by Josh Harrop won the ball close to half-way and he fed a ball into the penalty area for Stockley to cushion down for Irishman Burke, and the No.19 played a deft chip over Cairns in the Cod Army goal, but just over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
The greens had the ball in the net a minute later, through Stockley, after some excellent play involving Burke, Nugent and Darnell Fisher – making his first start of pre-season – but it was the right back, who crossed for the forward to convert, who was flagged for offside to rule out the goal.
But it was the home side who scored the opener just before the hour mark. Souttar stepped out of the backline and broke into the PNE half, before sliding the ball into substitute Hunter, who controlled and fired low under Connor Ripley into the left-hand side of the goal from 15 yards out.
Burke brought a superb stop out of substitute keeper Billy Crellin with 25 minutes to go; the attacker turning and shooting in one movement to curl a left-footed effort towards the bottom right corner until an interception from the Fleetwood custodian, who turned the ball behind for a corner.
In the final quarter of an hour, with the home side having made ten changes in total, North End pressed for an equaliser and an effort from skipper for the night Daniel Johnson almost forced a mistake from Crellin, however, he just managed to keep the 25 yards driven effort between his legs, when it appeared it might squirm through to level matters.
Louis Moult, on at the break for Nugent, tried an audacious chip from 50 yards that went past Crellin, but narrowly wide of the left-hand upright in the final two minutes as the visitors continued to press to the end.
Fleetwood Town line-up: Cairns (Crellin, 62), Coyle (Rydel, 73), Andrew (Sheron, 73), P Clarke (Eastham, 62), Souttar, Burns (Mooney, 73), Biggins (Madden, 62), McAleny (Sowerby, 62), Morris (Hunter, 23), Coutts (c) (Baggley, 73), Rossiter (Southam-Hales, 73).
PNE line-up: Ripley, Fisher (Rafferty, 73), Earl, Ledson, Storey, Huntington, Harrop, Johnson (c), Stockley, Nugent (Moult, 46), Burke (O’Reilly, 84). Subs not used: Crowe, Simpson, Walker, Armer.
Referee: Mr P Bankes