Match analysis of PNE's win at Bamber Bridge

Jordan Hugill in the thick of the action against Bamber Bridge
Jordan Hugill in the thick of the action against Bamber Bridge
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Alex Neil safely negotiated his first task of Friday evening which can sometimes be a tricky job – finding a space in the tight confines of car park at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.

That done the Scotsman had a more comfortable time watching the Preston North End side he inherited this week, put seven goals past Bamber Bridge in their annual friendly fixture.

Goalmouth action at Irongate

Goalmouth action at Irongate

With Neil only having met the squad on Thursday, he chose a watching brief in the stand rather than a hands-on role on the touchline – that task he left to Steve Thompson and Alan Kelly.

Scoring seven goals was not a bad way for the North End squad to catch their new manager's eye, not quite the magnificent seven but pleasing all the same.

Yes, victory came against non-league hosts but it has been some years since they totted-up this many goals in the trip down the road to Irongate.

Brig are no mugs and Neil Reynolds' men will be looking to mount a push for promotion this term from the NPL First Division North.

PNE midfielder Melle Meulensteen

PNE midfielder Melle Meulensteen

But on Friday night, PNE were on another level, certainly in the way they moved the ball and the ruthless way in which they took their chances.

It was all done on a bowling green of a pitch, every credit to the Brig staff for the work done this summer on the playing surface.

North End fielded different XIs in either half, giving the vast majority of the squad some game-time.

Ben Davies, Stevie May and Callum Robinson found the net in the first half.

Josh Earl

Josh Earl

Tom Barkhuizen, Jordan Hugill (2) and first-year pro Melle Meulensteen were on target after the interval.

Hugill’s second, swept home from the edge of the box, was the best of the lot.

Performance wise, you could say that Meulensteen's show in the second half was the pick of the bunch, the young lad full of attacking intent and showing some nice touches.

Josh Earl, who together with Meulensteen and Callum Roberts has made the step up to the professional ranks, had been strong at left-back in the first half.

The one disappointment on the night was the early exit of keeper Declan Rudd from the action because of a slight thigh strain.

PNE lined-up 4-4-2, their first-half back four comprising of Liam Grimshaw, Andy Boyle, Ben Davies and Earl.

Paul Gallagher partnered Daniel Johnson in the centre of midfield, with Robinson and Daryl Horgan out wide.

Up front were May and Eoin Doyle – the Irishman back after a loan spell last season at Portsmouth and possibly off again to pastures new before the season starts.

Before he went off, Rudd had made a fine diving save to tip away a stinging drive from Brad Carsley.

North End, wearing last season’s navy blue and white change strip while they wait for a new sponsor to go on the front of new shirts, took the lead in the 16th minute.

Robinson’s corner from the right met by Davies whose header was sliced into his own net by Danny Forbes.

Davies’ effort was on target but it probably needed Forbes’ intervention to take it past the keeper.

Regan Linney had two chances inside a couple of minutes for the home side in a good spell of pressure, both of them drilled across goal and wide.

A good chance was wasted by North End as the half-hour mark approached, Robinson slipping a fine pass through to May in the box who had only the keeper to beat.

The Scottish striker rolled a low shot past Lloyd Rigby but saw it go agonisingly the wrong side of the far post.

May made up for that missed opportunity when he doubled PNE’s lead in the 35th minute.

Robinson picked him out with a pass in the box and May dispatched a low finish past Rigby into the bottom corner of the net.

North End’s third goal came three minutes before the interval.

Gallagher sent over a cross from the right-wing, Robinson timing his run into the box well to loop a header over the keeper and into the net via the underside of the bar.

It was all change at half-time, as a different XI took to the pitch skippered by Greg Cunningham.

Within 11 minutes of the re-start, PNE hit a fourth goal.

Marnick Vermijl was the creator-in-chief with some nice play down the right-wing, the Belgian beating two men and sending a cross into the box.

Hugill rose to meet it, heading it down into the path of Barkhuizen who took a touch before turning the ball home from close range.

The fifth goal came in the 63rd minute and owed a lot to Hugill’s persistence.

Played through by Barkhuizen’s pass, Hugill got into the box and over-ran the ball as he tried to take it around the keeper.

But he chased it across the box, turned back inside and tucked a low shot between keeper and the post.

Two goals in the space of two minutes put an extra coat of gloss on the win.

The sixth came in the 80th minute, Barkhuizen’s pass found Hugill who squared the ball inside for Meulensteen to calmly slot home.

Within 90 seconds, PNE had their seventh in the bag, Hugill getting possession to the left of goal on the edge of the box and sweeping a fine right-foot finish into the far corner of the net.

Bamber Bridge: Rigby, Kay (Staunton-Turner, 46), Dodd, Lawlor, Doughty, Potts (Riley, 61), Linney (Gregory, 46), Forbes (Ekpolo, 46), Carsley (Wiles, 78), Milligan (Mahoney, 46), Marow (Stammers, 61). Sub not used: Jones.

PNE (first half): Rudd (Roberts 14), Grimshaw, Boyle, Davies, Earl, Robinson, Gallagher, Johnson, Horgan, Doyle, May.

PNE (second half): Maxwell, Vermijl, Huntington, Spurr, Cunningham, Meulensteen, Pearson, Browne, Pringle, Hugill, Barkhuizen.

Referee: David McNamara (Preston)

Attendance: 2,186