Preston North End Fans’ Panel’s John Roper hoping for the luck of the draw
North End eased into the last 16 of the Carabao Cup with what turned out to be a comfortable 4-1 win against Cheltenham Town of League One.
It wasn’t all straightforward, though, as the Robins pulled it back to 2-1 early in the second half and, for a while, the visitors made North End work very hard before two late goals from Maguire and Riis made the scoreline look as though it had been a trouble free passage.
Two up at the break through Andrew Hughes and Joe Rafferty, PNE didn’t quite come out in the second period with the same composure and attitude that they had shown in the first 45 minutes.
Kyle Vassell had caused the home defence some real second-half problems for a period but the visitors started to tire as the game wore on and Preston took advantage to finish off a very spirited Cheltenham side just lacking that bit of class that the Championship gives you.
Frankie McAvoy made a total of seven changes from the team that started against WBA on Saturday with Ali McCann and Connor Wickham making their full debuts for the club.
Unfortunately Wickham only lasted a few minutes and had to be substituted early in the piece by Sean Maguire.
The visitors had the first shot of the game but it was North End who looked the more likely once they had settled down.
A corner from the left saw Hughes rise highest of all and put the home side one up with a powerful header.
Preston were looking comfortable but unfortunately lost Liam Lindsay to injury just after the half-hour to be replaced by Sepp van den Berg. Five minutes later North End were two up when Rafferty came in from the right and his shot took a deflection from a defender and went into the net much to Rafferty’s delight.
Whiteman almost made it three just on the stroke of half-time but his shot just went wide as North End went into the break completely in command and looking good for a place in round four.
No changes at half-time for either side but the visitors looked fired up and the introduction of Vassell 10 minutes into the second half could have changed the course of the game and even the tie.
Vassell had only been on the field for two minutes when he fired home from a narrow angle in the inside-left position and for 10 or 15 minutes it was very much game on.
The Preston back line struggled with Vassell’s raw power and Jordan Storey certainly had his work cut out trying to look after the bustling centre-forward.
Eventually North End got back on top in the game and with 10 minutes to go they booked their place in round four when Maguire turned and fired home past Evans in the Robins goal.
Emil Riis made it 4-1 in injury time when he scored his seventh goal of the season and North End’s evening was complete and a safe passage into the last 16 was secure.
So not quite as easy as the scoreline suggests but enough to see North End into the hat for the next round.
I thought the back line played quite well albeit that Vassell made them work for a while.
Hughes looked a clear man of the match to me for Frankie McAvoy’s team.
A game that was entertaining with a little bit or nerves for the home supporters but it all turned out okay in the end.
With a bit of luck in the draw, North End could have a decent chance of reaching the last eight of this competition for the first time in our history and in the 61 years of the competition.
The League Cup in all its formats has been very unkind to Preston over the years and although we have been in the last 16 on six occasions we have never been to the quarter-finals.
Perhaps 2021-22 will finally be the year we break the awful hoodoo this competition has over us.