AFC Fylde 0 Preston 4 - Dave Seddon's match verdict
Preston North End striker Sean Maguire clearly has a fondness for Mill Farm – home of AFC Fylde – if his scoring record is anything to go by.
Two visits to Wesham 12 months apart have seen the Irishman score five goals, his hat-trick on Saturday coming in front of signing-in-waiting David Nugent – a striker he will be competing with this season for a place in the North End front line.
This was Maguire’s first outing of pre-season having been excused the opening two friendlies as he got up to speed after a late return from international duty over the summer.
He got through an hour’s work, that just enough time for him to net a treble.
After netting twice in five minutes early in the game, Maguire hit his third just as Alex Neil was preparing to change all 10 outfield players.
Pre-season friendlies are only a rough guide to what is to come from August 3 onwards.
However, Maguire’s show offered plenty of grounds for optimism.
Back in the middle rather than stuck out on the wing, his movement was good and he looked sharp.
Tougher tests will come but as first run-outs go, he can’t help but be pleased with his hour against the Fylde who were National League play-off finalists in May and winners of the FA Trophy.
Maguire’s display and goals did not take PNE boss Neil by surprise in the least.
“That is what Sean is,” said Neil as he reflected on a third pre-season victory in a week.
“He is quick, dynamic, he can take the ball in, he can link it for you. When he is on his very best from he can do those things very well.
“That is what we saw from Sean and he also has very good players around him.
“Ben Davies’ pass for the second goal was excellent, some of Billy Bodin’s skill down the flank was excellent.
“Then you had Ben Pearson and Paul Gallagher in the middle pulling the strings.
“I thought Patrick Bauer put in a very commanding performance.
“The fade he put on some of the balls down the channel was impressive.”
For spells of the afternoon, the game was the support act to the Nugent show going on in the main stand.
This was the most public of parades of a player who has yet to be officially announced.
Nugent watched the game sitting next to PNE owner Trevor Hemmings, giving a wave to the large number of Preston fans behind the goal when his name got chanted.
It is 12 years since he left for Portsmouth in a £6m deal but his popularity clearly hasn’t diminished in that time.
His second coming will have to wait a few weeks in terms of getting on the pitch because of a knee injury he suffered in his final game for Derby County in May.
It is a no-brainer of a deal and a gamble rolled into one, if that makes sense.
A player with unfinished business returning to the club where he made his name is an exciting proposition.
The gamble is that it is more than a decade on from his departure and Nugent has plenty of miles on the clock.
North End fans will hope the experience picked up in doing those miles will serve Nugent well at Deepdale.
At 34, he fits into the extra experience category which Neil spoke about at the end of last season when outlining what he wanted ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
The trip down the A583 was a step-up in preparations for PNE, the outfield players in the starting XI staying on for an hour – at Bamber Bridge and Cork it had been two sides playing 45 minutes each.
Maguire had Billy Bodin and Josh Ginnelly either side of him, with Alan Browne in behind.
That attacking unit was to ask plenty of questions of AFC Fylde, Bodin full of purpose on the right and totally deserving of being the other name on the scoresheet.
Browne was clever in his play in the No,10 role, with Ginnelly a touch quieter over on the left-wing.
North End’s four goals were sandwiched by two misses from the penalty spot, Paul Gallagher’s effort from 12 yards in the fourth minute saved by Dan Lavercombe.
Late in the game, Fylde’s substitute keeper Jack Ruddy saved Daniel Johnson’s spot kick down by the post.
Maguire’s opener came in the 11th minute, sweeping a downward header from Andrew Hughes into the roof of the net.
His second five minutes later came when he ran on to Davies’ ball from the back, knocking the ball past Kyle Jameson and firing a low shot past Lavercombe.
Bodin made it 3-0 in the 39th minute, taking Browne’s pass and going on the outside of a defender before shooting low across the keeper.
Maguire’s hat-trick came on the hour, getting behind the Fylde defence to meet a long ball and roll a right-foot shot into the bottom corner.