PNE 2 Notts County 0 full-time

Preston North End's Manager Simon Grayson

Preston North End's Manager Simon Grayson

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Craig Davies made an instant impact on his Preston North End debut as the Lilywhites saw off Notts County at Deepdale.

The striker, signed on loan from Bolton Wanderers on Friday, broke the deadlock in the 65th minute with a powerful finish from just inside the box.

Davies then won the penalty which gave North End their second goal five minutes later, Joe Garner converting from the spot.

Until the hosts made their breakthrough, they had been thwarted on a number of occasions by Magpies goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington.

The 39-year-old is County’s goalkeeping coach and was making his first appearance for a year in place of the injured Bartosz Bialkowski.

He made a long list saves to deny Davies, Garner, Paul Gallagher, Lee Holmes and David Buchanan among others - but he had no answer to Davies’ deadlock-breaker.

The inclusion of Davies up front was one of three changes made to the side by PNE boss Simon Grayson.

Buchanan and Holmes returned to the starting XI after being on the bench in the midweek drew at Bradford City.

Josh Brownhill missed out because of a groin strain suffered at Bradford, while Jack King and Scott Laird dropped to the bench.

Garner won North End a free-kick with less than two minutes on the clock after being barged over a couple of yards outside the box.

It was Gallagher who took it, whipping a low right-foot shot towards the far post where Pilkington got down low to palm it behind.

Holmes cut inside from the right-wing but his shot lacked power and trickled through to the keeper.

The Magpies had a couple of early chances, Mark Fotheringham’s shot deflected wide while Callum McGregor put his shot too close to Declan Rudd after checking in from the wing.

Davies came within a whisker of giving North End a 16th minute lead when he chested down a ball inside from Holmes, turned sharply and hit a left-foot shot which Pilkington dived to tip over the bar.

Another chance fell Davies’ way just after, but he got a cross from John Welsh stuck under his feet and when he did dig the ball out, his shot went wide.

Enoch Showunmi headed inches over the bar after getting on the end of McGregor’s corner.

Gallagher should have hit the target when Holmes’ neat pass played him in on the left side of the box, but he dragged his low shot across goal and just wide of the back far post.

A 29th minute cross from Welsh was met by Garner whose header flashed just past the target.

Jack Grealish got clear down the inside-right channel just past the half-hour mark but the teenager, on loan from Aston Villa, dragged his shot across Rudd and well wide of the far post

A shot from Fotheringham deflected off a PNE boot and beat a wrong-footed Rudd but thankfully rolled just wide of the target.

Gallagher’s heavy touch in front of goal after being fed by Davies prevented him getting a shot away in the 41st minute.

Then just before the interval, a Davies shot from the edge of the box was held at the second attempt by Pilkington.

If North End had lacked penetration in the first half after having plenty of the ball, they made up for it in the second half.

Their attacking play started to have far more of a cutting edge and they created a string of chances leading up to the deadlock eventually being broken.

Davies’ 56th minute shot on the turn beat Pilkington but was kicked off the line by Gareth Roberts.

In their next attack, Gallagher’s pass put Garner clear in the box to the left of goal, his shot coming back off the legs of Pilkington.

A fine curling shot from Gallagher was gloved behind by the keeper who then tipped an effort from Holmes over the top.

North End found a way past him in the 63rd minute but Garner’s header was cleared off the line by Andre Boucard.

The breakthrough finally came two minutes later, Davies swivelling just inside the box and blasting a shot into the far top corner.

Five minutes later, the debutant went down in the box under a challenge from Grealish and referee Tony Harrington pointed to the spot.

Garner stepped up to take it, powering the penalty high into the net with Pilkington guessing the wrong way.

He wasn’t far off netting again in the 78th minute, his header from a Scott Wiseman cross flying just wide.

A rare second half chance for County saw substitute Kwesi Appiah drill a low shot just wide.

But it was North End who finished with a flurry, a cross from Chris Humphrey running out to David Buchanan whose low shot was pushed out by Pilkington, the keeper then blocking Garner’s follow-up.

PNE: Rudd, Wiseman, Clarke, Wright, Buchanan, Holmes (Keane 88), Welsh, Kilkenny, Gallagher (Humphrey 82), Garner, C Davies (Hume 78). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Laird, Beavon, King.

Notts County: Pilkington, Freeman, Smith, Sheehan, Roberts, Campbell-Ryce, Fotheringham (Mullins 65), Boucad, Grealish, McGregor, Showunmi (Appiah 65). Subs not used: Tempest, Hollis, Bishop, Andrews.

Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)

Attendance: 9,438 (326 County fans)