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preston 2 1000x500It’s a strange pre-season this year with two Europa League games in the middle of it, and we signed off for the first of those games last night with a 3-2 win against Preston North End at Deepdale.

It was a night when Sean Dyche used 22 players, saw us go 1-0 down, but respond with three goals of our own from Aaron Lennon and substitutes Dan Agyei and Dwight McNeil on a night when we were forced to field five young players in the second half given we were without five first team players.

Did the starting line up give any clues to how we might start at Aberdeen? That we won’t know until Thursday evening but I suspect we won’t be far from the same eleven when we take to the field at Pittodrie.

It was a quiet sort of opening to the game but North End, as they did last year, were not playing this one for fun and one challenge in particular on Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson might have brought a tougher response from the usually over officious referee Peter Bankes.

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But this was always going to be a tough game. Sean Dyche said afterwards that he wanted a proper game and that’s what he got. It became more so when Preston went in front midway through the first half. They were able to get the ball through to Josh Harrop far too easily and he finished with a shot into the bottom corner.

We weren’t behind for long. Aaron Lennon had already been denied once, forcing Declan Rudd into a good save, but he could do nothing just three minutes after the Preston opener when Lennon beat him with a terrific shot after the ball came to him following a Jeff Hendrick shot that was blocked.

Undoubtedly we were the better side for the remainder of the first half but had to settle for 1-1 despite both Guðmundsson and Ben Mee going close with efforts as we looked to grab the lead.

There was just one change ahead of the second half with Adam Legzdins replacing Tom Heaton. It wasn’t long before he had to pick the ball out of the net, and this after making a good save, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.

With not too long gone in the half it became apparent that we were about to make some changes, and changes we did make with all ten outfield players replaced ten minutes in. It took us a while to settle down again but we did go on to play some good football and did take the lead.

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Jon Walters, playing on the right hand side, got in a really good cross. It was met by Agyei, who had already come close once, and he looped his header into the top corner. It was a lead that lasted less than Preston’s had in the first half. Within a minute it was 2-2 when Callum Robinson took advantage of a defensive error to score.

Preston went for it, had a half chance, but it was Burnley who finished the stronger and we won it with an excellent goal six minutes from time. What a good finish it was too, McNeil firing home from the edge of the box with a left footed half volley after the ball had come to him via a clearance out of the box.

Some of the young players did ever so well in that second half and must have given the manager food for thought, but I’d imagine we’ll kick off at Aberdeen this Thursday with a team very similar to that which started at Deepdale with Chris Wood, if available, being the only likely change.

I make that three wins in the last three visits to Deepdale. I thought we looked superior at times last night.

The teams were;

Preston: Declan Rudd, Calum Woods (Darnell Fisher 71), Paul Huntington, Jordan Storey, Andrew Hughes, Ben Pearson (Ryan Ledson 59), Daniel Johnson (Louis Moult 72), Josh Harrop (Alan Browne 71), Graham Burke (Billy Bodin 63), Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire (Daryl Horgan 80). Subs not used: Chris Maxwell, Joshua Earl, Tom Clarke, Ben Davies, Paul Gallagher.

Burnley: Tom Heaton (Adam Legzdins ht), Matt Lowton (Phil Bardsley 55), James Tarkowski (Kevin Long 55), Ben Mee (Jimmy Dunne 55), Stephen Ward (Charlie Taylor 55), Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Jon Walters 55), Ashley Westwood (Mace Goodridge 55), Jack Cork (Dwight McNeil 55), Aaron Lennon (Ali Koiki 55), Jeff Hendrick (Nahki Wells 55), Sam Vokes (Dan Agyei 55).

Referee: Peter Bankes (Liverpool).

Attendance: 4,934 (including 872 Clarets).

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