Graham Burke and Sean Maguire link-up catches the eye of Preston boss Alex Neil

Alex Neil says the budding signs of a strike partnership between Graham Burke and Sean Maguire was one of the highlights of Preston’s first pre-season friendly.

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Graham Burke scored PNE's opening goal at Bamber Bridge on Saturday

Graham Burke scored PNE's opening goal at Bamber Bridge on Saturday

The Irish duo linked up in the first half of the 7-0 win at Bamber Bridge, with Burke playing the No.10 role behind Maguire.

It was Burke who opened the scoring, Maguire going on to net a hat-trick.

North End manager Neil told the Post: “You could see the combination play between Graham and Sean.

“They know each other and seemed to have a connection where they could pick each other out.

Preston North End's Sean Maguire scores his side's second goal against Bamber Bridge

Preston North End's Sean Maguire scores his side's second goal against Bamber Bridge

“I was really pleased with those two.”

While Burke’s campaign started in February with his former club Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland, the new boy is not being spared any of the pre-season work at Springfields.

Neil said: “Graham just needs to do exactly the same as what the others lads are doing.

“First of all, we don’t really know what shape Graham is in compared to the league we play in.

“We need to make sure he is topped up and in the same shape as the other lads.”

Maguire’s treble at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium caught the eye.

It came in a 20-minute burst, and helped North End reach half-time five goals to the good.

Said Neil: “Sean looked very sharp which is great.

“He took his goals well and could have had a couple more.

“Towards the end of last season I said that I didn’t think Sean was 100% following the injury he had.

“On Saturday I thought you could see that his sharpness was back.

“I’m expecting big things from Sean this year.”

Neil has a clear week on the training pitch with his squad ahead of the next friendly at AFC Fylde on Saturday.

Having used 22 players against Brig, he is likely to do similar in the Mill Farm clash.

In general, Neil was pleased with what he saw from his squad at the weekend, the first half in particular.

“We were comfortable in possession in the first half and we didn’t force it,” said Neil.

“Obviously we scored some good goals and could have had a few more.

“In the second half I would have liked to have seen a bit more intensity to our play.

“I thought it was a little bit laboured, maybe due to the heat and the fact it was 5-0 by half-time.

“Bamber Bridge sunk in and didn’t really come out and attack in the second half.

“Potentially we will use a lot of the squad at AFC Fylde.

“We’ve got Cobh Ramblers when we’re in Ireland and then we’ll really step things up when we come back.”