Memory match: Burton v PNE

Tom Clarke turns to celebrate scoring Preston's winner at Burton last season
Tom Clarke turns to celebrate scoring Preston's winner at Burton last season

Preston North End make only their second visit to Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium this weekend, taking with them some good memories of the previous trip.

The Lilywhites ventured to Staffordshire for the first game of 2017, winning 1-0 on January 2.

Tom Clarke sneaked round the back of the Albion defence to hook home PNE’s winner just before half-time.

It was not the prettiest of wins but it got them back to winning ways after a defeat and draw over Christmas.

Having played Sheffield Wednesday on New Year’s Eve, North End boss Simon Grayson freshened the side up with four changes.

There was a recall at the back for Bailey Wright – his last appearance in a Preston shirt before signing for 
Bristol City.

Alan Browne, Jordan Hugill and Eoin Doyle also came into the starting XI.

Tom Barkhuizen was on the bench for the first time, his move from Morecambe having officially gone through the day before.

PNE’s squad that day still has a familiar look about it more than 11 months on.

Eleven of the players who were in the matchday squad in January have a chance of featuring on Saturday.

For last term’s trip, North End started in a 4-3-3 system.

Clarke had been switched to right-back to cover for the absences of the rested Alex Baptiste and Marnick 
Vermijl who was injured.

Post-match, Grayson was to admit that he would have played three at the back had Vermijl been available.

The first half was littered with mistakes on a freezing cold afternoon.

An early Doyle run which saw him cut inside from the right wing, ended with a low shot being blocked in the box.

Daniel Johnson cleared away Matty Palmer’s corner which had dropped across the box towards the far post without anyone getting a touch.

A shot on the turn from Chris O’Grady was blocked by Paul Huntington’s sliding challenge.

Soon after, Wright got in a timely clearance to hook an O’Grady cross away from Jamie Ward in the box.

Thoughts were turning to the half-time tea when North End broke the stalemate.

Callum Robinson found space down the left, turned inside and sent over a cross.

It dropped over Doyle and appeared to be running out of play but skipper Clarke sneaked in beyond the far post and lifted a shot over keeper John McLaughlin from a tight angle.

In terms of action, the early stages of the second half followed that of the first, with quality in short supply.

PNE had a sight of goal in the 62nd minute, Johnson putting a free-kick into the box which Doyle met with a flicked header, one which the keeper gathered.

Johnson’s diagonal pass found Hugill on the edge of the box, and he chested down but dragged his shot wide of the near post.

With 71 minutes on the clock, a stray pass in the 
Burton midfield was picked up by Johnson, who moved forward before slipping a pass on the outside to 
Robinson. He moved into the box and hit a powerful shot which McLaughlin dived to tip over the bar.

North End had a great chance to stretch their lead, when Greg Cunningham broke down the left and stood up a fine cross to the far post which Hugill headed wide from six yards.

Cunningham was involved in the action at the other end, clearing Palmer’s cross out of the six-yard box.