Preston North End started their preparations for the 2020/21 season with a 3-1 win over Salford City at the Peninsula Stadium.
Two goals in three first half minutes from wide-men Scott Sinclair and Billy Bodin gave them a half-time lead, despite Ash Hunter pulling one back, and then after wholesale changes on the hour mark, they made it 3-1 with four minutes left when Josh Harrop converted from ten yards out.
Sinclair opened the scoring mid-way through the half, poking the ball under Ammies keeper Nick Hayes, after Daniel Johnson’s shot had been blocked, and then Bodin fired into the bottom right-hand corner after Sean Maguire and Daniel Johnson combined to set up the Welshman, before Hunter found the net after Connor Ripley had saved a shot from Jason Lowe. Harrop converted late in the game, cushioning home Brad Pott’s ball from the right.
Tom Clarke skippered Graham Alexander’s men and it was he and his new team-mates who started the brighter of the two sides, Brandon Thomas-Assante getting away a shot from right corner of the box nine minutes in, Ripley saving low at the near post.
But the visitors grew into the game and an Andrew Hughes cross from the left was blocked by Oscar Threlkeld, falling to Tom Bayliss 20 yards out, the midfielder arrowing a shot just wide of the left-hand post.
This preceded the goal, which came 22 minutes in, after some good play down the left by Maguire as he found space to collect Johnson’s ball, checked inside and pulled the ball back for Johnson, whose initial shot was blocked, but it fell to Sinclair, who poked the ball under Hayes and into the middle of the goal.
Three minutes later, they doubled their advantage as again Maguire found 2020 Player of the Year Johnson, who pulled the ball across to Bodin, who fired home with the outside of his right boot into the bottom right corner – a goal that started by pressing high and winning the ball in the middle of the pitch through Ryan Ledson.
The Peninsula Stadium hosts had a good chance to pull one back, with some nice play down the right from Thomas-Assante, pulling the ball back and Richie Towell dragging a shot just wide of the left-hand post from 15 yards out.
However, just before the half hour mark they did get a goal. Hunter pulled one back after former Blackburn man Lowe’s shot from the left corner of the penalty area was saved initially by Ripley, but the ball came back out to the former Fleetwood man, to slide the ball under the goalkeeper into the left-hand corner.
Right before the interval, Maguire had ball in the back of the net, a goal his first half display would have deserved. It was a good finish down the left after a Hughes knock down from Ledson’s deep cross into the box, but the linesman’s flag was quickly up and the Irishman was denied.
City almost equalised with a bullet header on 57 minutes, but it wasn’t from one of their own men, it was off Patrick Bauer, defending a corner from the right-hand side; with three crosses from the corner coming in quick succession.
Just after the hour mark the entire side was changed and some fantastic football saw them immediately show real intent; Ben Pearson sending Tom Barkhuizen down the right, who used his pace to race towards the penalty area, before pushing it in to Brad Potts, whose first time shot was narrowly wide and into the side-netting.
Another introduction, Jayden Stockley, was found by Potts, after another powerful run from Barkhuizen on the right, but the PNE No.20’s left-footed shot was dragged to the right of Hayes’ post.
Stockley was much closer with five minutes to go, whipping a right-footed effort inches wide, after a burst of pace again from Barkhuizen, who sliced through the middle of Salford, before finding his fellow forward.
But a minute later, it was 3-1 as Pearson stole the ball in the middle of the pitch, found Brad Potts down the right, who stood up a cross to the back post to pick out Josh Harrop, who calmly watched the ball onto his right foot and cushioned the ball into the middle of the goal to finish the game with a positive scoreline on their first run out of pre-season.
Salford City line-up: Hayes, Lowe, Clarke (Turnbull, 64), Eastham, Threlkeld, Touray, Gibson (Andrade, 64), Towell, Hunter, Asante, Henderson (Hawkins, 75). Subs not used: Evans, Golden, Jones, Denny, Armstrong.
PNE line-up: Ripley (Hudson, 61), Browne (c) (Rafferty, 61), Hughes (Earl, 61), Ledson (Pearson, 61), Bauer (Huntington, 61), Storey (Davies, 61), Bodin (Barkhuizen, 61), Bayliss (Gallagher, 61), Maguire (Stockley, 61), Johnson (Potts, 61), Bodin (Harrop, 61). Subs not used: Baxter, O’Reilly, Walker.
Referee: Mr S Oldham