Preston North End ready for final pre-season tests against Fleetwood and Newcastle United
Preston North End’s players will get their final audition ahead of the new season in their weekend double header with Fleetwood and Newcastle United.
It is a Cod and Toon test for North End less than 24 hours apart, Alex Neil getting the chance to get game time into all of his squad ahead of the season’s opener against Millwall on August 3.
Friday night's trip to Highbury (7.45pm) was originally going to be the final friendly.
But when the chance arose at the end of last week to play host to Newcastle, it was an offer PNE boss Neil was only too willing to accept.
Saturday's Deepdale clash (3pm) will be the Magpies’ first game in England under the management of Steve Bruce who was appointed during their recent trip to China.
PNE manager Neil felt the addition of the Premier League club to the pre-season fixture card was much needed.
Although happy to have seen his side getting decent work-outs against Bamber Bridge, Cork, AFC Fylde and Chorley, he wanted sterner tests as the season neared.
Southampton certainly gave North End that last week, winning 3-1 at Deepdale and at times really stretching PNE.
Lessons learned from that defeat can hopefully be put to the test against Newcastle.
Accrington proved good opponents on Tuesday night and it’s League One opponents again at Fleetwood.
How Neil splits the squad between the two games will be interesting.
The temptation will be for a stronger XI on Saturday to be tested against Newcastle.
However, Neil might not want to show his full hand in terms of team selection ahead of playing Millwall.
Having the two games will enable Darnell Fisher and Brad Potts to get more time on the pitch as they strive for full fitness.
They both got their first action of pre-season in the Accrington game after time on the sidelines - Potts with a knee injury and Fisher having undergone hernia surgery.
Neil said: “The two games will be good tests. Fleetwood are a strong side and we did well there two years ago.
“I snapped Newcastle up straight away when that one became available.
“The aim is to get through with everyone available for the start of the season.
“Last season we were nice and settled leading up to the start and then we lost two out of the front three in the space of a couple of days.”
There is both standing and seating for North End fans at Fleetwood.
Seating is £12 adults, £6 concessions and £2 Under-16, while terrace admission is £10 adults, £5 concessions and £1 for Under-16s.
For the Newcastle game, admission is £10 adults, £5 concessions (Over-65s and 19-24-year-olds) and £1 Under-18s.