Dave Seddon's verdict: Celtic 0 Preston North End 1 - Lilywhites' victory at Celtic Park is a deserved one
Contrasting emotions came out of the Preston North End and Celtic camps after this friendly at Celtic Park.
PNE didn’t exactly shout from the rooftops about their 1-0 win but there was a quiet feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done.
Concern was the state of mind inside Celtic the defeat coming just days before their Champions League qualifier against Midtjylland.
Victory was a deserved one for the visitors, having created some good chances throughout the afternoon.
The one negative was that those opportunities weren’t put away, it needing a penalty from Ben Whiteman to settle the game in their favour.
Celtic weren’t without their chances, Declan Rudd having to make a good save in either half.
In general, though, North End were on top and this was an excellent way to round off their visit to Scotland.
Whiteman especially enjoyed it, his penalty on Saturday following on from the 25-yard finish he produced at St Johnstone last Tuesday.
He was very good in both games in terms of his midfield play, linking well at Celtic with Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts.
That will be a congested area once Alan Browne resumes playing and Daniel Johnson returns from the Gold Cup.
So putting down a marker during pre-season will do Whiteman, Ledson and Potts no harm at all.
Tom Bayliss, Izzy Brown and Josh Harrop were to replace them during the second half, underlining how many midfielders Frankie McAvoy has to work with at the moment.
Victory was a nice moment for McAvoy, having been a boyhood Celtic fan. His last visit to Celtic Park in a coaching capacity had been in 2014 when No.2 to Alex Neil at Hamilton Academical.
They had overseen a 1-0 win that day which sent the Accies top of the league.
Same scoreline this time, of less significance but very satisfying all the same.
Had this game been played in a ‘normal’ world rather than in the midst of a pandemic, I would wager there would have been a significant North End presence in Glasgow.
As it was, only 2,000 Celtic supporters were allowed in, the turnstiles clicking there for the first time since March last year.
With Celtic Park having a 60,000 capacity, it did seem on the cautious side.
Only the lower tier of three of the stands were used, with the huge upper tier unused, so too the main stand.
Saying that, just seeing fans in stadiums again is a joy to behold, even in such limited numbers.
This game was a test event for Celtic, ahead of 9,000 being let in for Midtjylland’s visit on Tuesday night.
With three weeks to go until the season kicks off, it is hard to say how closely McAvoy’s starting XI at Celtic resembled what he has in mind to face Hull in the first league game.
The back three he started with was the same trio which finished last season. Jordan Storey, Liam Lindsay and Andrew Hughes looked comfortable against Celtic’s frontline.
John Hartson and Chris Sutton who were on pundit duty for Premier Sports, were to remark that Celtic struggled against the physicality of the Preston defence.
Tom Barkhuizen and Greg Cunningham were the two wing-backs, a natural home for Cunningham but not quite so for Barkhuizen.
The midfield three we’ve discussed, with the front pair being Ched Evans and Scott Sinclair. As hard as those two worked, so too Emil Riis and Sean Maguire when they came on, PNE could be in a better place with a proven scorer.
Sinclair could have had a penalty early doors but stayed on his feet and saw his shot smothered behind by the keeper – that coming just after Potts had been denied by a fine save from Vasilis Barkas.
Preston’s winner came in the 64th minute as the game got going following seven subs made by McAvoy.
Riis flicked on Patrick Bauer’s header forward, with Maguire darting forward to meet it in the six-yard box.
Contact between Maguire and Celtic sub keeper Scott Bain saw the PNE man go to ground, referee Kevin Clancy seeing it as enough to point to the spot.
Whiteman put the penalty in the bottom-left corner with Bain going the other way.
This was Preston’s first visit to Celtic for 47 years, they won 2-1 that day in a friendly when Bobby Charlton was their manager. Clearly the east end of Glasgow is a happy hunting ground for them!
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