Dave Seddon's verdict: Mansfield 0 Preston North End 3 - Small step in the right direction for PNE in the Carabao Cup
Preston North End went to Mansfield Town seeking redemption for their shocker of a result on the opening day against Hull.
They partly got some from this 3-0 Carabao Cup win but it will be in the league where Frankie McAvoy’s outfit get fully judged by the fans.
That said, 486 North Enders were a happy bunch in the away end on Tuesday night as their side knocked the Stags out of this competition for the second year running.
Victory was comfortable in the end, delivered by two Scott Sinclair goals either side of Emil Riis finding the net.
For much of the first half though, the League Two hosts gave as good as they got and you would argue had the better of the play.
PNE were to swing the game in their favour right at the end of the first half, a swift counter attack finished off by Sinclair.
The goal gave the visitors more room to breath after the interval and we saw more from them, Riis scoring within four minutes of coming on as a sub and Sinclair producing a composed finish for his second and Preston’s third.
Being three goals to the good allowed McAvoy to give debuts to Joe Rodwell-Grant and Jamie Thomas, increasing the feel good factor on the night.
Victory must be balanced with the fact the Lilywhites are two divisions higher than Mansfield, with much sterner tests in the Championship on the horizon.
However, they got the job done in a game which pretty much had a status of must-win in light of the Hull defeat.
A cup exit on the back of a 4-1 opening-day loss would only have piled-on the frustration for what is a restless fan base at the moment.
McAvoy mixed a few of Saturday’s starters with fresh legs, Sinclair teamed-up with Sean Maguire in attack as they both emerged from a spell of isolation.
At the back, Patrick Bauer played his first competitive game since surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles tendon.
Sepp van den Berg got the nod at right wing-back and had a right feisty time in the first half, tangling more than a few times with Ryan Stirk.
In midfield, former Stags loanee Ben Whiteman was paired with Daniel Johnson who skippered the side.
Johnson played deeper than in the last couple of seasons, the idea to get him on the ball earlier in moves and to build play.
I’d still like to see him get a go in the No.10 role, a position which at Mansfield was filled by Brad Potts.
While Mansfield saw plenty of the ball in the first half and worked it well down the wings, they didn’t overly trouble Daniel Iversen.
The best chance fell at the other end, Maguire playing in Sinclair who saw his shot well saved at close quarters by keeper Nathan Bishop.
Maguire and Sinclair were to link-up to break the deadlock in stoppage-time at the end of the first half.
Greg Cunningham broke up a Mansfield move in the PNE half, Potts got to the loose ball and played it to Maguire.
The striker’s run from the half-way line took him deep into the hosts’ half before playing in Sinclair to his right.
Sinclair’s first touch took him into the box, his second lifted a shot over Bishop into the roof of the net.
Riis replaced Maguire in the 67th minute and quickly impacted the game, scoring as the clock showed 71 minutes.
Bishop shanked a goalkick straight to Sinclair who set off towards the box.
His shot was pushed up into the air by Bishop, Riis following-up to challenge.
The ball dropped to the left of goal, Riis getting to it on the byline, cutting back to the corner of the six-yard box before driving a finish into the far corner. Off he went to celebrate with the fans behind the goal, a proper away day at last.
PNE’s third came in the 81st minute, Johnson and Potts working the ball inside.
Potts’ lay-off found Whiteman 20 yards out who played a first-time pass into the box to find Sinclair.
The frontman showed a cool head to turn smartly and pick his spot with a low shot past Bishop.
In the end a good ‘Stag’ night for North End but let’s not get carried away yet.
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