John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Sterner tests ahead but a good start

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A decent afternoon for Preston against their lowly opponents Mansfield ending in a comprehensive 4-0 win for Alex Neil’s boys.

Three goals in the first half effectively put the game to bed and when Harrop added a fourth midway through the second half, thoughts turned to the second round when a dozen or so of the Premier League teams enter.

This was a good team performance and as Paul McKenna said in commentary, you can only beat what is put in front of you.

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To be fair to Mansfield they started both halves well but North End’s possession and quality on the ball proved far too much for the visitors and at times they were chasing shadows on Deepdale’s beautiful green surface.

Sean Maguire gets the second goal against Mansfield in the Carabao Cup first-round tieSean Maguire gets the second goal against Mansfield in the Carabao Cup first-round tie
Sean Maguire gets the second goal against Mansfield in the Carabao Cup first-round tie

Solid performances all over the pitch for PNE but I thought that Tom Barkhuizen was man of the match as he looked quick and dangerous nearly every time he got on the ball.

Young Bayliss did well for an hour along side Pearson and perhaps we will see much more of the lad in the coming season.

Neil had put out a fairly strong side as North End kicked off playing towards the Kop in the first half, although Mansfield were certainly standing their corner in the early stages of the game.

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In fact it was the Stags who had the first chance of the match hitting the post after 11 minutes.

After that you have to say it went very much downhill for the visitors as North End asserted their authority and their class on the game. In the 14th minute Preston took the lead when Barkhuizen hit a fabulous half-volley from the inside-right position that flew into the net.

Eight minutes later North End were two up when Sean Maguire raced away on the left and neatly clipped the ball over the advancing keeper to make it 2-0.

Just before the half-hour mark Bauer was there at the back post to knock in number three and put North End in complete control as the visitors heads began to drop.

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The only black mark was the booking of Pearson for a silly little ankle tap but we went in at the break comfortable and looking to add some more in the second half.

No changes for North End after the break as the Stags made a good start to the second half showing some good intent and having a chance early on that went wide of the post.

Gradually, though, as in the first half, North End got on top and while we didn’t score as many in the second half we certainly created several good chances, the best two of which were missed by Barkhuizen and Harrop. It was in fact Harrop who completed the scoring 25 minutes from the end with a good half turn and shot, leaving the Mansfield defence all at sea as he calmly slotted home.

Bayliss and Pearson were then given a rest as Ledson and Rafferty were introduced and to be fair both did well in their time on the field, Scott Sinclair replaced Maguire later on and the ex-Celtic man had two half-chances but couldn’t quite get his shots away.

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Mansfield rallied towards the end with a few corners but it was all too little too late and North End were home and dry on a cold grey August afternoon at Deepdale,

So a straightforward win for North End with no slip-ups and a passage into the last 68 of this staggered competition. This game will have very little impact on the Championship season apart from the fact that it was a good result, a good performance and a competitive game in this strangest of pre-seasons. No doubt the gaffer will be pleased with his charges on the afternoon but will know full well there will be tougher challenges ahead for North End when the league action gets underway on September 12.

For now, though, four goals scored and a clean sheet is all you can ask as North End head into their final two friendlies next Friday and Saturday before the very meaningful starts against Swansea City in a fortnight’s time.