Premier test for Lilywhites

Alan Browne gets some close attention from an Oldham defender

Alan Browne gets some close attention from an Oldham defender

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Preston return to Deepdale on Saturday to face Stoke in their only home friendly game of the pre-season programme.

With the Potters expected to send a strong squad up the M6, it should provide PNE with their sternest test yet in the build-up to the campaign.

The North End squad had a training session at Deepdale on Thursday to reacquaint themselves with home turf – the next time they will play at home after the weekend is the League Cup clash with Hartlepool on August 9.

Bar the hammering they got from Fulham in Ireland, Simon Grayson has been pleased with what his players have produced since reporting back three weeks ago.

Wins against Bamber Bridge and Chorley prior to the trip to Fota Island, then Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over Oldham, were all good exercises.

The difference in sharpness between the first two friendlies and that in midweek, was clear to see.

Lilywhites manager Grayson said: “There has been a progression in the last week or so – we have got a lot of conditioning work into them.

“We were disappointed with what happened against Fulham over in Cork, there’s no getting away from that.

“There was the excuse of having had three training sessions the days before but it was still disappointing.

“Against Oldham we got back to what we were good at doing last season – being hard to beat, disciplined and playing with a good work-rate.

“We had a look at different players and systems, a lot of lads got 60 minutes and some got 90 minutes. Now we prepare ourselves for a tough game against a good Premier League side in Stoke City.

“It is all about building up and making progress ready for the first Championship game at Reading next month.”

Alan Browne, Tom Clarke and Chris Maxwell were the three players to play the full game at Oldham.

Chris Humphrey played 75 minutes as an early substitute for the unfortunate Calum Woods.

There was a similar amount of game-time for Daniel Johnson and Greg Cunningham, with the other starters getting an hour.

Those who came on as substitutes at Oldham are likely starters against Stoke.

Joe Garner, Paul Gallagher, Jermaine Beckford, Anders Lindegaard and Paul Huntington are among those in line to face the Potters.

This will be Stoke’s second friendly of the summer, their first ending in a 3-0 defeat at Burton Albion last Saturday.

The Burton game saw returns from long-term injuries for Jack Butland, Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson.

Goalkeeper Butland missed out on going to Euro 2016 after breaking his ankle playing in England’s friendly win over Germany in March.

After their trip to Deepdale, Stoke fly to Florida for the next stage of their pre-season.

Mark Hughes used the majority of his senior players in the Burton game and is likely to do so against PNE.

Reflecting on that defeat, the City boss said: “The first 45 and 60 minutes was what I was most interested in.

“It was always the plan to give the senior players up 
to an hour, we didn’t want to put them at risk at such an early stage of pre-season.”

This is the first meeting between the sides since February 2008 when PNE won 2-0 at Deepdale.