Preston head into the new Championship campaign on the back of a 3-0 win at League Two Oldham on Saturday.
ALSO READ: Sean Maguire's Oldham substitution a precaution says Alex Neil
Louis Moult, Daryl Horgan and Paul Gallagher got the goals in the second half with the countdown now on until the season opener against Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale on August 4.
Opening day line-up will be hard to predict
The final friendly of the summer is usually a fun time to try and predict what PNE’s starting XI when the serious stuff starts will be. The opening line-up against Oldham was a strong one and could easily face QPR. Neil insisted post-match that he wasn’t showing his hand however and a sluggish first-half display may have given he even more food for thought. There were plenty of changes at the break and more with 20 minutes to play. That there is so much debate shows that there is more depth to the North End squad this campaign, Neil believing there is not much to choose between the majority of his players.
The whole fanbase will have their fingers crossed this week
Sean Maguire hobbling off is possibly the worst sight for any Preston fan at the moment. His afternoon at Boundary Park lasted less than 25 minutes, a tight hamstring resulting in Louis Moult taking his place. Alex Neil was confident post-match that it was nothing serious, the move simply a precaution. But nevertheless, it is a concern. Moult came on and certainly played his part with impressive link-up work and a classic No.9’s goal. There is also talk of further recruitment at the sharp end of the field but no matter how well others do, Maguire has the potential to be one of the stars of the Championship this season.
Graham Burke has had a fine pre-season
It was another Irishman, Graham Burke, who laid on the goal for Moult. His introduction coincided with PNE’s improved second half display and continued what has been an excellent first few weeks at Deepdale for the former Aston Villa youngster. This assist was a delicious left-footed cross that only needed Moult to do the rest from close range. More threatening moments followed on another good day for the former Shamrock Rovers man. Perhaps this is to be expected with Burke arriving part-way through the League of Ireland season but it is certainly encouraging.
Darnell Fisher doesn’t believe in friendlies
PNE’s right back was excellent at winding up home fans up and down the land last season. Knowing when to spoil and take his time over throw-ins, Darnell Fisher positioned himself as North End’s master of the dark arts. He seems to honing those skills in pre-season with some rather tasty exchanges being a feature of his afternoon at Boundary Park. One challenge may have resulted in a sending off in the Championship and from then on the Oldham players and crowd certainly got stuck in. “Train as you play,” was Fisher’s comment to us as he left the field with a smile. He certainly followed that mantra on Saturday.
Andrew Hughes looks likely to start at left back
Josh Earl was one of two unused subs at Boundary Park, alongside Jordan Storey. With the teenager having missed a bit of pre-season through injury it looks ever more likely that Andrew Hughes will get the nod at left back on the opening day. He has been dependable since arriving from Peterborough and showed his qualities again on Saturday. The 26-year-old looked good going in both directions and saw one shot blocked. Earl made a major breakthrough last season and this battle at the back still has the potential to be one of the talking points of the season.