Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 0 Bolton Wanderers 1 - PNE boss given a helping hand with team selection

Frankie McAvoy’s strongest Preston North End side has emerged with plenty of room to spare ahead of kick-off to the new season.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 8:00 am

No doubt what the PNE head coach saw during Tuesday evening’s defeat to Bolton will help with his team selection on August 7.

The XI which started at Leyland’s packed County Ground didn’t exactly push themselves to the forefront of McAvoy’s mind in terms of a place against Hull in two-and-a-half weeks time.

They got themselves stretched and at times over run by a lively Wanderers side who deserved their win.

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Only when McAvoy made 10 outfield subs in the 67th minute did the tide turn somewhat.

PNE finally started to look like they might get something from the friendly, with them having a sense of purpose.

It would have been harsh on Bolton had they done so, bearing in mind how the first hour or so had played out.

The Lilywhites could have trailed by two or three goals by half-time were it not for Connor Ripley’s saves.

Preston North End head coach Frankie McAvoy

Ripley looks set for the exit door at some point but couldn’t be faulted for his 45 minutes on the pitch. His double save to deny Josh Sheehan and Antoni Sarcevic was top-drawer.

At half-time he gave way to Mathew Hudson who was beaten six minutes into the second half by Gethin Jones’ low drive from 20 yards.

It was something of a mixed and matched first-half team, young midfielder Jack Baxter playing the first 35 minutes as a left wing-back.

Joe Rafferty was on the other side, with Sepp van den Berg, Pat Bauer and Josh Earl the middle three.

In midfield were Lewis Leigh and Tom Bayliss, with Brad Potts further forward behind Sean Maguire and Scott Sinclair.

This was a third outing for 17-year-old Leigh who isn’t afraid to put a foot in, something goalscorer Jones found out when on the end of strong challenge which caused a melee.

The manner in which PNE’s players piled in to protect the teenager from their irate Bolton counterparts, perhaps underlined the team spirit.

Leigh and Jones both got a yellow card and a ticking-off from referee Jeremy Simpson.

North End’s best chance of the game had come just before half-time. Ethan Walker, on for Baxter, cut inside from the left and sent a low shot across goal and against the outside of the far post.

Other than that, a Bauer header from Bayliss' free-kick which flew over the bar was probably as good as it got for the first 70 minutes.

The 'new' outfield team had more craft about them, right wing-back Tom Barkhuizen played into gaps down that side of the pitch two or three times.

Emil Riis showed chased a ball down the side of the box and showed some tidy footwork in keeping the ball in play and then pulling it back in the direction of Ched Evans who couldn't get enough on it.

There were some good touches from Noah Mawene playing in the advanced midfield role, watched by proud dad Youl from the side.

Pre-season friendlies aren't all about the result. North End aren't going to win the league because they beat Celtic, nor four days later are they relegation fodder on the back of this defeat.

There are pointers which can be taken though, in the main the finger is pointing to the majority of those who came off the bench in Leyland as being starters when the Championship begins.

The big takeaway from the game in my opinion was the crowd. I'm not sure what the capacity of Lancashire FA's headquarters is, but there weren't many spare seats or sections of perimeter fence to lean on.

This was the first time since March 2020 that PNE supporters had been able to watch their side live. Bolton fans had been allowed in at a couple of friendlies in the past week or so but had missed out on their team's promotion campaign from League Two last season.

How nice to have an atmosphere again, for the fans' voices and shouts to be heard rather than the players talking on the pitch.

The County Ground hosted this friendly extremely well, the fan zone outside and the facilities inside very decent.

PNE: Ripley (Hudson 46), van den Berg (Storey 67), Bauer (Lindsay 67), Earl (Hughes 67), Rafferty (Barkhuizen 67), Bayliss (Ledson 67), Leigh (Whiteman 67), Potts (Mawene 67), Baxter (Walker 35, Cunningham 67), Sinclair (Riis 67), Maguire (Evans 67).

Dixon, Jones (Brockbank 63), Almeida Santos (Aimson 68), Baptiste (Senior 75), Gordon, Williams, Sheehan (Thomason 66), Sarcevic (Tutte 68), Amaechi (Delfouneso 21), Afolayan (Darcy 66), Bakayoko (Conway 75). Subs not used: Hutchinson.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Carnforth)