Match report: Fleetwood 1 PNE 5

Preston North End completed their programme of pre-season friendlies with a comprehensive victory over Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium.

Friday, 28th July 2017, 10:24 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:11 pm
Daniel Johnson in action for PNE at Fleetwood

It needed a much improved second-half performance from the Lilywhites to fashion the win, four of their goals coming after the interval.

At times in the first half they played second fiddle to their hosts, falling behind to a 16th minute goal from Cian Bolger.

Paul Huntington headed them level in first-half stoppage-time and after the break they moved into a higher gear.

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Greg Cunningham challenges Bobby Grant

Tom Barkhuizen put them ahead with his fifth goal of pre-season, with Daniel Johnson increasing the lead from the penalty spot after the excellent Sean Maguire had been fouled by Nathan Pond.

Substitute Daryl Horgan finished well for the fourth, with an own goal from Town's Lewie Coyle completing the scoring.

Maguire, making his first start for PNE after his debut against Burnley as a substitute, was a livewire throughout up front and offered lots of promise for the campaign ahead.

Darnell Fisher put in an encouraging display on his debut at right-back, getting 80 minutes under his belt.

PNE striker Sean Maguire in action against Fleetwood

Third-choice goalkeeper Mat Hudson was between the posts for North End because of injuries to Chris Maxwell and Declan Rudd.

PNE were again in a 4-2-3-1, Tommy Spurr partnering Huntington in the centre of defence, with skipper Greg Cunningham at left-back.

Ben Pearson and Alan Browne were the central pairing in midfield, Barkhuizen and Robinson out wide with Johnson in the hole behind Maguire.

Johnson forced the visitors' first chance in the fourth minute, his low shot from the left hand side of the box saved by Alex Cairns at the near post.

Greg Cunningham challenges Bobby Grant

Maguire struck the woodwork soon after, the Irishman turning sharply just inside the box and hitting a left-foot shot which hit the base of the upright and bounced behind.

Fleetwood responded with a couple of chances, a shot from Bobby Grant hitting Spurr and going behind, then Ashley Eastham headed over the bar from the resulting corner.

Hudson tipped Grant's free-kick over the bar, the corner leading to the home side's 16th minute opener.

Grant delivered it from the right, Bolger rising unchallenged to send a header into the roof of the net from 10 yards.

PNE striker Sean Maguire in action against Fleetwood

It was almost 2-0 moments later, Jordy Hiwula stealing ahead of the PNE back four to meet a long ball forward, chipping it over Hudson and just wide of the post.

North End for large parts of the first half looked disjointed, one or two moves offering promise but breaking down because of a slack pass.

Robinson almost capitalised on a mix-up in the Town defence when Bolger and Coyle collided with each other going for the same cross.

The ball fell to Robinson who elected to shoot first-time from the edge of the box, the powerfully-struck effort flying wide.

Pearson drove a long-distance shot wide, Maguire then forcing a save from Cairns at the near post after finding room down the side of the box.

A succession of corners in the run-up to the interval saw North End force an equaliser.

It arrived in first-half stoppage-time, Johnson playing a corner on the left short to Robinson who took a touch before bending a cross into the box.

It was met by Huntington who steered a header across the keeper into the far corner of the net.

Browne was the width of the woodwork away from scoring goal of the pre-season within two minutes of the re-start, the midfielder's shot from the centre-circle sailing over the back-pedalling Cairns and hitting the bar.

The manner in which North End opened the second half suggested some harsh words had been said by Neil during half-time.

Maguire found space down the right side of the box and got away a low shot, one which Cairns saved with his legs.

They went ahead in the 54th minute, Robinson's nicely-weighted through ball opening-up the home defence to send Barkhuizen clear.

Barkhuizen took the ball wide of the keeper and rolled a shot into the unguarded net.

Another effort from Maguire - the sharpest player on the pitch by some distance - forced Cairns into a fine save, parrying it behind.

With 67 minutes played, Robinson got clear down the left channel and pulled the ball back low to Barkhuizen, his first-time shot well saved by Cairns diving to his left.

Horgan and Ben Davies came off the bench to replace Barkhuizen and Spurr, this a return to Highbury for Davies who spent four months on loan with Fleetwood last season.

Two goals in four minutes stretched Preston's advantage as the game moved into its closing stages.

In the 71st minute, Maguire was tripped by Nathan Pond as he moved down the left side of the box, referee Michael Salisbury pointing to the spot.

Johnson stepped-up with a stuttering run and dispatched a firmly-struck penalty into the bottom corner, Cairns guessing the right way but not able to get a hand to it.

Horgan got the fourth, making his mark quickly after his introduction from the bench.

The Irishman cut inside along the edge of the box and stroked a left-foot finish into the far bottom corner.

Coyle's own goal six minutes from time made it 5-1, the ball rebounding off the wing-back's leg as it ricocheted around the box.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Pond (Rodgers 73), Eastham, Coyle, Glendon, Dempsey (Schwabl 84), Bell (Ekpolo 82), Hiwula, McAleny, (Cole 75) Grant. Subs (not used): Nirennold, Burns, Hunter, Crellin.

PNE: Hudson, Fisher (Vermijl 80), Huntington, Spurr, (Davies 69) Cunningham (O'Connor 86), Pearson, Browne (Harrop 61), Barkhuizen (Horgan 69) Johnson, Robinson, Maguire (Doyle 80). Subs (not used): Boyle, Grimshaw, Pringle, Earl, Roberts.

Referee: Michael Salisbury (Preston)

Attendance: 2,108