Bury come from behind in the second-half to win their last game and remain unbeaten in pre-season.
A strong PNE side visited Gigg Lane for the final pre-season game ahead of each clubs new league campaigns since gaining promotion.
Flitcroft named a bigger team to the one that played against Blackburn a few days ago. Chris Hussey, after his superb ‘man of the match’ performance against Rovers wasn’t involved, but the Preston game saw Andrew Tutte, Kelvin Etuhu, Danny Nardiello, Jacob Mellis and two trialists (Reece Brown & Dean Furman) introduced on the team sheet.
While Simon Grayson started his new loan signing in goal, Jordan Pickford - with the most notable absentee for the visitors being Jermaine Beckford.
Both teams have strong connections and as they looked to finish on a high it was the Shakers who opened the scoring with their first chance on the 11th minute. A well-worked move from the back resulted in a Leon Clarke header from a Joe Riley cross in the box. Soares was free and smashed it into the roof of the net after Leon guided the ball into Tom’s path.
Before that goal Walton and Pickford commanded their areas superbly, catching any cross in their box with ease in the pouring rain.
The Lilywhites equalised two minutes later as Joe Garner received the ball on the right, took it into the box, cutting inside and hitting it low and hard at Walton’s near post to put the score level again.
Fast-paced attacking football was on show for the fans with Riley playing a well timed through ball through the centre of the PNE defence on the 20-minute mark. Pickford was quick off his line though, clearing the ball on the edge of the box as Clarke was centimetres away from going clean through on goal.
Preston then had a glorious chance to take the lead on the 22nd minute. A free kick was fired in from the right and Will Keane hit his effort well over the bar at the back post after being under some pressure.
Joe Garner guided his header narrowly wide of Walton’s left post from another free kick on the right side on the 27th minute. Keane kept the pressure up for the hosts, as he broke free on the left, winning a corner in the process.
The pressure paid off for the Lilywhites when Keane slid home an effort unchallenged in the box on the half-hour mark. Bury failed to defend a cross as Walton didn’t get a clean clearance, Daniel Johnson hit a shot and it kindly deflected into Will’s path.
As the rain continued the Shakers started to get back into the game, tightening up their defensive duties and giving the Preston midfield no time on the ball. Danny Mayor caused all kinds of problems for PNE on the left wing too, using his pace to run with the ball and cut inside, but ended up passing the ball back with the resolute defence.
HALF-TIME: THE SHAKERS 1-2 PRESTON NORTH END
As Preston got the game underway for the second 45-minute period it was Flitcroft who made the first change of the game. Joe Riley came off for Craig Jones at right back in his new shirt number (14).
Another change was made for Bury on the 51st minute as Andrew Tutte came on for Dean Furman in the heart of midfield.
The first notable chance of the second-half wasn’t until well after the hour mark when Leon Clarke equalised for the Shakers (66th minute) – a typical striker/poachers goal, pouncing on a pass in the box, sliding home the effort past the keeper. Danny Mayor and Tom Pope were substituted for Jacob Mellis and Hallam Hope soon after.
Leon kept up his impressive performances in the Bury attack as he carried the ball into the box from the right, curling his effort Pickford got a strong hand to it preventing it from going into the top left-hand corner.
The visitors made their first change of the game on 74 minutes, Joe Garner coming off for Jordan Hugill, a straight swap up top. Two minutes later and Reece Brown came on for the Shakers to replace Kelvin Etuhu.
Soon after the referee awarded a penalty to Bury on the 78th minute for pulling. Tutte stepped up and scored to put the Shakers back in the lead. His spot-kick was well placed in the bottom left corner, as Pickford dived the right way. Seconds later and Danny Nardiello made an appearance for Leon Clarke, who got a standing ovation.
Peter Clarke also got a huge round of applause as he came off for Chris Sedgwick two minutes before time after suffering a nasty clash minutes before.
Tutte then flashed the ball across goal, but it was too far for any of the attack to get any sort of contact.
Chances were few and far between in the game, despite the goals, as the Shakers held on for a magnificent and impressive win ahead of the new campaign.
FULL-TIME: THE SHAKERS 3-2 PRESTON NORTH END
Another top performance by the team and a lot of positives to take away, especially coming from behind against tough/higher opposition and rightly so got a great reception as they walked off the pitch!
Next up for the Shakers is the one we’ve all been waiting for… the start of the SkyBet League One season opener at Doncaster Rovers. It’s a 3pm KO, next Saturday (8th August) at the Keepmoat Stadium.
STARTING LINEUP: 1. Christian Walton (GK), 2. Joe Riley (OFF HT), 5. Peter Clarke (OFF 88’), 6. Kelvin Etuhu (OFF 76’), 9. Leon Clarke (OFF 79’), 10. Danny Mayor (OFF 67’), 11. Tom Pope (OFF 67’), 19. Tom Soares, 22. Danny Pugh, 27. Nathan Cameron (C), 18. Dean Furman (Trialist – OFF 51’).
BENCH: 4. Andrew Tutte (ON 51’), 7. Hallam Hope (ON 67’), 8. Jacob Mellis (ON 67’), 12. Chris Sedgwick (ON 88’), 14. Craig Jones (ON HT), 17. Danny Nardiello (ON 79’), 26. Rob Lainton (GK), Reece Brown (Trialist – ON 76’).
REFEREE: Mr. Darren Handley.
ATTENDANCE: 1,307 (366 visitors).
Report by Michael Brown