On a memorable Saturday for England, two Irishmen and a Welshman got the ball rolling in Preston’s friendly victory over Bamber Bridge.
PNE had this one in the bag before half-time, scoring five times in the first half at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
Graham Burke introduced himself to the North End supporters with a goal less than five minutes in, then set up Billy Bodin for the second.
Step forward Sean Maguire to take the limelight, netting a hat-trick in 20 minutes.
Not a bad weekend for folk called Maguire, was it?
Two Englishmen, Louis Moult and Josh Harrop, put their names on the scoresheet in a second half which did not quite live up to what the first had produced.
Overall though, it was a decent opener to North End’s friendly programme and the ideal starter to the main course which England were to serve up against Sweden later in the afternoon.
A balance has to be struck when analysing a pre-season clash of this nature.
There is the difference in divisions to begin with, this NPL versus Championship.
Preston used 22 players, changing completely at the interval, with Brig not having that luxury but rotating their squad with a couple of roll on/ roll off subs in the second half.
Credit where it is due to Alex Neil’s men though, they played very well – especially the first-half XI.
Seven goals against any side is decent going and Brig are no mugs, having won promotion in May.
Where North End had the big advantage was with their fitness, this game coming on the back of eight days’ worth of double training sessions.
In Burke, they had a player with zip in his legs from half a season with Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland.
That sharpness was there to see in a lively performance in which he linked well with fellow countryman Maguire.
Conditions were not easy, the game played in lunchtime heat and sunshine.
A drinks break was taken at the 25-minute mark of both halves – those in the 1,739 crowd had the luxury of more frequent visits to the bar.
With the heatwave in mind, every credit to home manager Neil Reynolds who watched from the technical area in blazer and tie.
His PNE counterpart Neil chose to watch from the shade of the stand and must have liked what he saw.
Burke swept his new side ahead after taking advantage of Adam Dodd overrunning the ball as he brought it out of defence.
He then turned supplier his low cross falling to Bodin who took a fine first touch and fired home. Maguire’s hat-trick came between the 16th and 36th minute.
The first of the treble came after the Preston back line had defended a free-kick, with Daniel Johnson hooking the ball forward.
It was misjudged in the air by Kieran Charnock, giving Maguire a clear run on goal.
He sprinted goalwards and tucked away a low finish.
For Maguire’s second, DJ’s fine pass gave Daryl Horgan plenty of grass to run into down the left-hand channel.
Horgan got to the byline and put over a low cross which Maguire slid over the line at the near post.
His hat-trick came from a move down the same wing, Maguire finishing first time from Josh Earl’s cross.
The goals flow slowed in the second half but Moult got the fifth goal as the hour mark arrived.
He swapped passes with Callum Robinson and found the corner of the net with a composed finish from 12 yards.
Harrop completed the scoring in the 89th minute, making up for a penalty miss 10 minutes earlier.
The midfielder got it right after exchanging passes with Moult before firing home from the edge of the box.