John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Celebrate...but we’re still short on quality
Very much a case of job done for North End on a pleasant evening in north Nottinghamshire as they eased past a spirited Mansfield Town side by three goals to nil.
A goal just before half time from Scott Sinclair followed by the second 20 minutes from the end via Emil Riis was enough to kill off the Stags with Sinclair having time to score a third before the end.
The first half was a pretty even affair in all honesty with not too many chances but up to Sinclair opening the scoring it was probably the home side who looked the more likely without really threatening.
Mansfield rallied again after the break but North End moved up a gear as the game wore on and it was no surprise that we sealed the match and a place in the second round of the Carabao Cup in front of a very noisy 486 travelling fans in the total attendance of 2,526.
Frankie McAvoy made seven changes to the starting line-up from the game against Hull on Saturday but North End still looked very strong, on paper at least, against their counterparts from League Two.
Nigel Clough certainly had his charges up for the game and the home side took it to PNE right from the off. Mansfield played some good football at times but had no real final product even though they had a couple of half chances early on.
Sinclair had an excellent effort save by the home keeper and at the other end Daniel Iversen was keeping things pretty tight dealing with what the Stags threw at him.
Mansfield had two good chances through Oates and Stirk as we headed for the break but it was the visitors who took the lead in the final minute of the half.
Sean Maguire put Sinclair through in the inside-right position and the former Celtic striker made no mistake, chipping the keeper and giving North End the lead.
No changes for either side at half-time as the home side came out fired up and ready to go. Much as they tried they could not pierce the North End defence in the early stages of the second have as they went for the equaliser.
Preston were beginning to pass the ball around with a bit more fluidity as they made the home side work hard to get the ball back.
Riis was introduced for Maguire midway through the second half and within a few minutes of being introduced he had effectively won the game for North End.
A poor goalkick fell to Sinclair who charged through only to see his shot saved and the ball fall to Riis after shaking off a defender.
The big striker steadied himself as he turned in the box and then smashed the ball home in front of the North End fans.
It was effectively game over although Sinclair picked up his second late on, once again shooting past the keeper, this time from the inside left position.
No doubt that Mansfield will feel a bit hard done to, but North End’s finishing was the difference between the two sides as the Championship quality showed in the end.
While this was a good result and progression into the next round is always desirable, it doesn’t change the fact that North End are still short of quality in the final third of the pitch.
Winning at Mansfield is one thing but going and doing it a Reading on Saturday is a completely different matter.
The result will no doubt have given the lads some of their confidence back and they gave the travelling fans a decent round of applause at the end of the gave for their support.
However, it is the Championship that is our bread and butter and we need get some points on the board in the next seven days, as it is easy to start panicking if you lose a couple of games on the bounce early on.
For now, though, we can look forward to Wednesday night’s second-round draw and perhaps a plum tie at Deepdale after this win on the road.