Dave Seddon's verdict: Manchester City 2 Preston North End 0 - Lilywhites still searching for their goal touch

This was a difficult game to judge what Preston North End have in front of goal ahead of the new season.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 8:00 am

Aside from their opening friendly against Bamber Bridge when they scored eight, the Lilywhites have found goals in short supply this summer.

Only three times in the last five outings have they found the net, Tuesday night’s blank at City coming a week after failing to score against Bolton.

To be over critical of them not troubling the scorers in the first half of their visit to the Academy Stadium would be a touch harsh when you bear in mind the back four Pep Guardiola fielded.

PNE defender Andrew Hughes slides in to tackle Manchester City's Iker Pozo as Ben Whiteman closes in

Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake and Benjamin Mendy is an impressive line of defenders in anyone’s book.

Dias was the Premier League player of the year last season and got the Football Writers' award too.

Cancelo would have gone to the Euros with Portugal were it not for Covid, while Ake did make it with Holland.

Left-back Mendy has been around the block too, while patrolling in front of that quartet was Fernandinho.

Manchester CIty manager Pep Guardiola watches his side's friendly with PNE

Guardiola subbed all 10 outfield players at half-time and sent on a team full of young lads from their reserves and academy.

PNE were to look slicker against the more experienced side who played the first half but seemed to run out of ideas and perhaps belief for the second 45 minutes.

In neither half did they register a shot on target, a concern no matter who the opposition are.

Defensively North End looked sound at City, as they generally have done when Jordan Storey, Liam Lindsay and Andrew Hughes have played as a trio.

They had Sepp van den Berg for company as a wing-back on Tuesday, which may be a hint as to Frankie McAvoy’s thinking ahead of the opening Championship game.

Van den Berg had played as a centre-back in the previous friendlies, the wing-back role one he played at the end of last season.

With Matt Olosunde not fit yet and Tom Barkhuizen a better option further forward, van den Berg seems a good fit there.

Ben Whiteman has been North End's stand-out player in pre-season, the midfielder very good again on his return to Manchester - he was in United's academy as a teenager.

He's been the scorer of two of the three goals against full-time opposition, a 25-yarder at St Johnstone and the winning penalty against Celtic.

Whiteman had Ryan Ledson next to him last night, a player who has allowed a wild edge to creep back into his play in the last two games.

Ledson could have seen red at Accrington and against City he was subbed soon after a clash with a City youngster.

Up front were Barkhuizen and Ched Evans. They needed better service than they got although there were a couple of moments for Barkhuizen.

The best of those saw him played in behind City's high line by Brad Potts' long ball from the back, only for keeper Zack Steffan to slide tackle him way outside the box.

Riyad Mahrez and Sam Edozie scored City’s goals, Mahrez with a free-kick he whipped over the wall in the 25th minute after Josh Earl had caught Morgan Rogers

Teenager Edozie drove a 64th minute shot past Connor Ripley for the second, James McAtee's clever pass playing him in.

That goal came in a spell when City saw plenty of the ball and PNE were on the back foot.

McAvoy's men move on to play Wigan Athletic and Manchester United on Friday night and Saturday afternoon respectively.

United's visit is the marquee pre-season game and likely to be similar to the City game in terms of the opposition's comfort on the ball and speed of movement.

The trip to Wigan might tell us a bit more, Latics a division below but having been shelling out a few quid to strengthen their squad over the summer.

How much we will be able to take from them depends on the team selection.

Whatever the approach is, those shooting boots need a good coat of polish rubbed in and more creativity is needed.

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