Dave Seddon's match verdict: Everton 2 Preston North End 0 - final round of friendly fire for PNE at Goodison Park

A shorter pre-season than normal and indeed the most strange in memory is almost over and the countdown has started to the 2020/21 campaign opener.

Sunday, 6th September 2020, 8:00 am

Preston North End saved their toughest test of the past three weeks to last, facing an Everton side which mixed youth with seasoned Premier League attacking talent.

That was a combination which proved too strong on the day for Alex Neil’s men, not that they were outplayed.

PNE had three of the best chances of the contest and got the ball in the net, only to see that one scrubbed off by an offside flag.

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Preston North End midfielder Tom Bayliss tracks Everton's Bernard at Goodison Park Pic courtesy of PNE

Everton were slick moving though, and through front three Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott, offered a threat which took some work to defend against.

Connor Ripley made a decent number of good saves, that well-time with him likely to be needed to face Swansea in the Championship opener.

He was beaten twice, the first Toffees goal coming early on through Jonjoe Kenny.

Calvert-Lewin scored in the second half to double the advantage, inflicting a first loss of the friendly campaign on PNE.

PNE right-back Darnell Fisher in the thick of the action against Everton at Goodison Park Pic courtesy of PNE

Before this one, they had beaten Salford, drawn with Tranmere, Burnley and Sheffield United.

Squashed in with that lot was the 4-0 victory over Mansfield in the Carabao Cup.

I thought Everton carried a greater threat than Burnley and Sheffield United had done.

Both those sides were well organised but Everton had more edge to their attacking play.

With the trip down the A59 having come the day after facing the Blades at Bramall Lane, Neil fielded a different XI on Merseyside.

You could argue that the Friday side was stronger than the Saturday version in terms of how Neil might be thinking ahead of the Swansea game.

Ripley by reason of the injury which has sidelined Declan Rudd, looks a likely starter next week.

Darnell Fisher and Brad Potts are in the mix, this being Fisher’s first run-out after a calf strain.

The others might have to make do with a battle for the bench at this juncture but with the fixture list being as congested as it is, a squad game will be utilised.

From Friday’s line-up, Ben Davies, Patrick Bauer, Ben Pearson, Scott Sinclair, Tom Barkhuizen, Daniel Johnson and Andrew Hughes look likely starters.

Could you throw Ryan Ledson into that group too after another good display at Bramall Lane.

Ledson would have been itching to tread the Goodison Park turf had he not played 24 hours earlier, this the club where he cut his teeth.

He had to be content with a watching brief from the bench and fist-bumps with many members of the Everton staff over the course of the day.

Neil gave youth its chance in this one, mainly in the shape of Ethan Walker who started on the right-wing.

Walker got 73 minutes on the pitch before Adam O’Reilly took his place, with Jack Baxter getting a few minutes at the end.

First-year pro Walker was in and out of the game but will have learned plenty from the experience. He had the second of PNE’s three good chances.

Jayden Stockley had gone one-on-one with goalkeeper Harry Tryer and seen the teenager save his shot, before Walker did likewise.

He ran from further back, driving inside from the right channel just before half-time to get clear on goal.

With both Potts and Josh Harrop in the middle for a pass, Walker had the confidence to shoot and forced Tryer into a fine save.

The third chance of note was in the second half when Jordan Storey’s header from a Harrop free-kick was tipped on to the bar by Tyrer.

At the other end, both Everton goals were set up by Richarlison. His cross in the ninth minute was helped on by Walcott, right-back Kenny sliding in to take advantage of hesitant defending to knock it home.

Richarlison then took a pass from fellow Brazilian Bernard and crossed low for Calvert-Lewin to net from six yards.

For North End, Paul Huntington stood out at the back with a strong performance.

Ripley behind him was very good, bar a late slip when he came to catch a high ball and misjudged it - it needing Josh Earl to clear off the line.

His shot-stopping was fine, setting the tone with a first-minute reaction save to tip Gylfi Sigurdsson's deflected shot over the bar.

Stockley stuck to his task up front but should have done better with his one-on-one.