MATCH REPORT: PNE 1 Hearts 0

PNE v Hearts

PNE v Hearts

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A goalkeeping howler allowed Joe Garner to steal the show as Preston North End beat Hearts 1-0 at Deepdale.

PNE hot-shot Garner punished Hearts keeper Neil Alexander for a sliced clearance in the 64th minute.

The striker pounced on the loose ball in the box and his powerful header was too hot for Alexander to handle as the former Rangers man scrambled back to punch the effort clear.

But despite the recovering keeper’s best efforts the header had already crossed the line.

Jermaine Beckford had a clear cut penalty appeal waved away in the first 45 and Paul Huntington’s close range header was cleared off the line as the Lilywhites triumphed over their Scottish Premiership opposition.

PNE new boy Will Keane marked his Deepdale début by linking up with Beckford and Garner in a three pronged attack for the friendly clash.

After missing Tuesday’s 4-0 victory over Bamber Bridge the Manchester United loanee slotted into the role that former PNE loan star Callum Robinson enjoyed last term as Grayson opted for an attacking 4-3-3 formation.

Neil Kilkenny missed out after picking up a slight knock against Brig whilst Kyel Reid also missed out due to tonsillitis.

North End started the game well and launched several early attacks.

Garner slipped in Daniel Johnson who weaved towards the box before teeing-up Beckford in space on the right. But the striker’s sweet chip looped over Alexander’s bar in the 10th minute.

Moments later Wembley hero Beckford was in the action again. The striker was tripped just outside the box and PNE nearly opened the scoring from the subsequent set-piece. Johnson whipped the ball towards Huntington at the back post but the defender’s powerful header was cleared off the line by Sean McKirdy.

In the 18th minute Hearts tested North End’s defence for the first time. PNE keeper Jamie Jones came out to meet Billy King’s corner but he was beaten to the punch by Callum Paterson’s head but fortunately for the Lilywhites the ball flew off target.

Osman Sow tried his luck from distance in the 20th minute but the Swedish striker’s low shot fizzed past Jones’ left hand post.

After a pacey Hearts counter-attack was mopped up by Woods and Wright North End launched the ball back up to Beckford. The striker stormed into the box and appeared to be tripped by Blazej Augustyn in the 30th minute but referee Darren Handley waved away his penalty claim.

Seconds later Hearts won a set-piece in PNE’s half but Paterson’s free-kick was deflected over.

The defender should have done better from the corner as he lost his marker but he headed over from just six-yards out.

Sow out-foxed Bailey Wright in the 41st minute as the striker took the ball from over his shoulder before unleashing a fierce strike that just flew past a diving Jones to safety.

An unmarked Augustyn failed to test Jones as his header ballooned over the bar in the 42nd minute and Huntington smashed the ball over the woodwork up the other end just before half-time.

Hearts upped the tempo at the start of the second 45. The visitors won another header in the PNE box but Clarke was on hand to clear the danger. But the Jambos threatened again from the subsequent corner but Paterson headed over from inside the six-yard box.

The scare rattled PNE into action as new boy Keane spun his man and forced Alexander into a fine fingertip save in the 50th minute.

Garner stung Alexander’s palms moments later with a fierce rising shot from the right of the box.

Garner was at the forefront of the action yet again in the 58th minute as he pounced on Gallagher’s set-piece from the right but the striker was thwarted by Alexander who back-peddled and made another great fingertip save to deny PNE.

But Garner finally got his goal in the 64th minute as former Rangers man Alexander made an uncharacteristic slip-up and handed the ball on a plate to the goal hungry striker.

Alexander sliced his clearance and the ball flew across the box into the path of Garner who gobbled up the chance and powerfully headed the ball towards goal. The Scottish shot-stopper manager to scramble back and punch the ball away but the referee awarded the goal and Garner wheeled off to celebrate.

Grayson made a flurry of changes minutes later as Browne, Brownhill, Davies, Hugill and Little came off the bench to replace Wright, Keane, Gallagher, Beckford and Welsh.

The changes saw Davies partner Huntington in the middle of the defence, young midfield duo Browne and Brownhill team up with Johnson in the middle and Hugill and Little joined Garner in a front three.

Garner soon left the fold as Jack Ryan joined the fray. Nick Anderton replaced Woods to slot in at left back.

Anderton drove forward on the left and the youngster had a tough introduction to the game after Paterson clattered into him.

Brownhill fed in Little on the left and the striker fired the ball across goal towards the back post into the path of an on-running Hugill who was just beaten to the ball by a Hearts defender.

Up the other end King honed in on goal and tore towards Jones but young defender’s Anderton and Josh Heaton combined to stub out the threat in the 90th minute.

Little’s curling effort just fizzed wide of the top left corner in added time as the Lilywhites ended the game on a high.

PNE: Jones, Clarke, Wright (Davies, 67) Huntington (Heaton, 85), Woods (Anderton, 77), Welsh (Brownhill, 67), Johnson, Gallagher (Browne, 67), Keane (Hugill, 67), Garner (Ryan, 77), Beckford (Little, 67). Subs not used: James.

Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, McHattie, McGhee, Augustyn, Pallardo (Anderson, 51), McKirdy (Smith, 85), Nicholson, King, Walker, Sow (Reilly, 59). Subs not used: Hamilton, Ozturk, Oliver, Buaben, El Hassanoui, Morgaro.

Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire)

Attendance: 4860 (1614 away)