Dave Seddon's verdict on Preston North End's win against Bamber Bridge
There is little not to like about Preston North End’s annual visit to Bamber Bridge.
A chance for a pint or two stood in the sun at the most welcoming of grounds while having a first look at how the team are shaping up after the return to pre-season training.
I would wager though, that no one enjoyed their Saturday afternoon at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium more than Josh Harrop and Billy Bodin did.
Last season was a total write-off for Bodin after he ruptured the ACL in his right knee.
He got the company of Harrop in the gym from late September, his PNE team-mate having suffered the same injury.
Bamber Bridge was their comeback game, the chance to feel like footballers again.
It might not have been the biggest stage but how good they felt to be back out on the pitch – a rather dry and dusty one it has to be said – plying their trade.
Harrop played a wide left role in the first-half team, with Bodin in the side which took to the field for the second.
In that first 45 minutes Harrop got on the ball enough times to make it a worthwhile work out,it being his corner which led to Preston’s opener scored by Tom Clarke.
Louis Moult stretched the lead before the interval and more goals should have come as the game wore on.
In Bodin, the Lilywhites had the best player on the pitch in the second half.
Pre-season friendly or not, he resembled a player looking to make up for lost time, a man on a mission.
His crosses provided two chances for Jayden Stockley and then Bodin himself was only an inch or two wide with a curling shot.
“When you get the news which myself and Josh got last season that we wouldn’t play for a long time, an occasion like this is what you dream about,” said Bodin.
“It is the chance to play again, put your shin pads on, feel like a player.
“The fact we both got through 45 minutes and both did fairly well was massive for us.
“It was nice to get on the ball, show the fans what they missed from us.
“As the game went on I got to see quite a lot of the ball in some good areas.
“I was speaking to Jayden Stockley at the end and I said I should have had three assists and a couple of goals.”
North End got plenty out of the game, 22 players getting a valuable 45 minutes of action under their belts.
Bodin and Harrop were not the only two returning from injury, with Tom Barkhuizen, Andrew Hughes and skipper Clarke all having sat out the closing stages of last season.
Another returnee but in a different sense, was Graham Burke, back from spending the second-half of last season on loan at Gillingham.
It could well be that Burke moves on before the start of the campaign but he played with a purpose, setting up the goal for Moult, hitting the post and seeing a shot find the net only for it to be disallowed.
The Irishman played off Moult, another one who could be pleased with his afternoon.
Brig were good opponents, keeping a good shape and had chances of their own.
Ryan White saw two shots go wide in the first half, with an Ali Waddecar chance not far off target either.
At the start of the second half, a Danny Wisdom effort came back off the post.
While Preston could well have won by a great margin, the hosts were unfortunate not to have registered their name on the scoresheet.
Brig didn’t have the luxury of being able to change their team at half-time, a couple of players who were substituted reappearing later – this after all is pre-season!
The first half had the better entertainment, there being a spell in the second when the game lulled and had more of a feeling of a training session.
North End led from the 10th minute, Harrop’s corner headed on by Moult in the air for Clarke to prod the ball home from three yards.
Harrop almost marked his return with a goal, sending a header from Barkhuizen’s cross just wide.
The lively Barkhuizen’s cross set up Burke to send a shot against the post, his follow-up flick spinning goalwards until it was cleared.
The second goal arrived in the 34th minute, a powerful run from Burke taking him to the edge of the box where he back-heeled the ball to Moult who put his laces through a low drive into the far corner.
Home goalkeeper Danny Roccia came to the fore in the second half, making good saves to deny Stockley twice, Alan Browne and winger Josh Ginnelly who displayed some genuine pace down the left.
A late Stockley header from a Bodin cross, was to clip the outside of the far post as PNE finished strongly.
The pre-season schedule moves on to southern Ireland and Monday night’s clash with Cork City - another step in the build-up to the season's opener.