National treasure as Preston progress

James Sutcliffe and (pictured right) Sam Sinclair starred for Preston
James Sutcliffe and (pictured right) Sam Sinclair starred for Preston
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Preston booked their place in the last 16 of the English Hockey National Cup thanks to a 3-0 win at Didsbury Northern.

The Whites had beaten their opposition in last year’s Lancashire Cup final.

But Didsbury have a strong record of giantkilling in this competition, including dumping National League outfit Sheffield Hallam out in the previous round.

With a slightly different look to the Preston team, they looked to blood a few new faces and try some players out of their regular positions.

And they were far from weakened by it, as Sam Sinclair took command of the midfield from the outset.

Didsbury also began stronlyg and withheld some high pressing from Preston.

However, with 12 minutes on the clock, David Sullivan found a foot in the D and the resulting short corner was deflected home by Ben Scott.

Didsbury did offer some threat on the attack.

But their chances were thwarted by some strong flat-stick tackling from James Sucliffe and Tom Kerry in the middle of the defence.

Preston came close on a few more occasions.

However, they went into the break with a 1-0 lead.

The second half saw a heightened intensity from Preston and their superior fitness and skill level came through. Ross Lockwood caused issues with his pace 
and interchanging up front and the youth of Jacob Draper, Jack England and Steve Halfhead put in the extra leg work to tire the Didsbury back line.

This proved to be Preston’s winning formula as they repeatedly opened up the hosts’ defence and won a string of corners.

In the 55th minute, James Sutcliffe drag-flicked the ball on to the post and the rebound was swept home by Dan Renshaw.

Two soon became three, when a carbon copy routine of the first goal was again converted by Scott.

The Didsbury goalkeeper made a string of superb reflex saves to keep the scoreline respectable.

And the Whites will take encouragement from the youngsters who showed a mature attitude to their game and executed skill well on the pitch.

Preston will now host the University of Birmingham from the Conference West division on Sunday, November 15, in the last 16 of the competition.