Manager Alex Neil was pleased to see his side tested in their opening pre-season outing of the 2020/21 campaign, as his side overcame an experienced Salford City outfit with a 3-1 win at the Peninsula Stadium.
Three goals in seven first half minutes saw Scott Sinclair and Billy Bodin fire the visitors into a 2-0 lead, before Ashley Hunter’s timely reply, and it was left until four minutes from full-time for substitute Josh Harrop to reinstate the Lilywhites’ two-goal advantage.
The gaffer felt the Ammies provided a great run out for his team, especially with Graham Alexander’s side being two friendlies ahead of North End in terms of games already played this pre-season.
“I thought it was a good game,” Alex told iFollow PNE. “I think the fact that Salford are a few weeks ahead of us, who have had a few games already, I thought it was a proper match. You could see they were up for it, they squeeze the pitch well, I thought they put us under pressure and we had to find the answer.
“I thought first half was a bit eachy-peachy, I thought the two teams had good spells. Our first half team is more of a counter attacking team with the pace we’ve got at the top end of the pitch and I think you can see that with the two goals that we scored, which were excellent.
“The lads that came on for the last 30 minutes really controlled the ball and controlled the tempo of the game, which gave us a different threat in the second half and we scored an equally good goal towards the end. It was a great run out, you want to start with a win regardless of whether it’s a friendly or not, and a lot of good performances as well.”
Alex felt there was a contrast in style between the visitors two first half strikes, while there was praise for the second XI – North End made wholesale changes on the hour mark – who forged the third goal right at the death.
“One, we sort of risked the ball at the back to pull them out, got in behind them and then we created the goal from there.
“The second one, we nicked it with good pressure at the top end of the pitch – two very different types of goals but equally with good quality at the end to finish them off.
“Pearo nicks it, drives, great ball down the line for Brad and he stands up a great ball; big Jayden’s run under the ball and takes the centre back with him and Josh Harrop appears at the back stick and gets his goal.
“The one thing you want is you want a good test, a good run out, you want the lads to get on the ball, make things happen, get good fitness out of it and make sure we don’t pick up any injuries and certainly to this point, that’s what’s happened, so that’s good.”
Among those not involved were Darnell Fisher and Louis Moult, both of whom are missing through injury, the manager clarified.
But for those who were out on show at the Peninsula Stadium, the manager told how he was encouraged by elements of the display from both the side that started and the one that finished the game.
“Yesterday, we’ve prepped both teams playing against each other, so they’d already had their work done in terms of how they were going to play when they came on, so there wasn’t any concern that we just threw them altogether – we’d already done a few days’ work this week getting both teams ready to play.
“I think you could see that, the organisation, the quality and where they found themselves on the pitch and the dilemmas they caused the opposition when we did have the ball, I thought we carried a real threat which was good.”
Watch Alex’s post-match thoughts in full by clicking on the video below or on iFollow PNE via the official PNE app.