Preston North End boss Simon Grayson admitted that Josh Brownhill’s superb late winner against Burnley last night had come as a stunning surprise to him.
The teenage midfielder netted a 35-yard free-kick in the 89th minute to give PNE a 2-1 victory over the Clarets at Deepdale.
While it was Brownhill’s fourth goal in pre-season, Grayson revealed that free-kick taking had not previously been the 18-year-old’s strong point.
Grayson said: “Josh has been working on his free-kicks for about a year or so – and hasn’t hit the target once in training or in the games!
“We have been having a laugh about it with him over the last few weeks because he’s been hitting them and seeing them sail over by yards and metres.
“Obviously he has hit this one which has flown into that top corner.
“The lad is playing with a lot of confidence. For him to hit that free-kick in the first place shows the type of confidence levels he is playing with at the moment.
“That goal will take some beating. If he is going to shoot from there he has to make sure he hits the target.
“That is four in pre-season now for Josh. He has come back looking a lot stronger, he wants to get on the ball and take responsibility.
“We are really pleased with how he has developed.”
North End had trailed at half-time to a 16th minute goal from Lukas Jutkiewicz, the Clarets’ summer signing taking advantage of the hosts trying to play out from the back with Bailey Wright losing possession.
Alan Browne’s 52nd minute goal brought PNE level, then later up popped Brownhill to take centre stage.
Grayson did not hide from the fact that his side had not been at their best in the first half, but took plenty of encouragement from the second-half recovery.
“That was a really good test for us, Burnley play with a high intensity closing you down,” said Grayson.
“When teams do that, you have to make the right decisions.
“We tried to play out from the back too much and caused ourselves problems.
“You aren’t going to come across the level of Jutkiewicz and Danny Ings in our division, but when you do it is all about solving problems and making the right decisions.
“We tried to put a few things right at half-time.
“One or two lads weren’t quite at it and Burnley’s movement and energy caused us problems.
“They are a Premier League team and have that in their locker.
“In the second half we went a little bit longer and gave Burnley plenty to think about.
“We were far better and tighter as a team and unit.
“We had more energy about us and rounded off with the fantastic strike from Josh, which was great for him and us.
“We now have a game against Leicester on Saturday which is the last pre-season game and then we get ready for the first match of the season which everyone is looking forward to.”