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preston 2 1000x500There was a time when beating Preston North End at Deepdale didn’t prove too easy a task for Burnley but the last two league games have been won there and we’ve now added a pre-season victory to that with Jon Walters and Sam Vokes, apparently, scoring our goals in a 2-1 win.

Last time we were there, all the talk was of how the final three games of the season would pan out. Would we go up? Or would we miss out to Middlesbrough and Brighton? There was a lot of tension around as the queues built up at the Bill Shankly turnstiles which were ready to admit over 5,600 Burnley fans,

With that mission accomplished followed by a season outside of the Premier League’s bottom three, it was much more relaxed last night, as you would expect, and we even had the added bonus of discussing a fourth summer signing with the return of Phil Bardsley to Turf Moor, and there was not one single dissenting voice to be heard about our latest arrival.

He was obviously not involved in the game but significantly neither was Tendayi Darikwa with supporters putting two and two together given the speculation coming out of Nottingham that Forest were close to signing a right-back. For once, it seems, two and two does actually make four.

I don’t think we can read anything at all into the team selection for last night’s game and I would expect it will be similar this weekend when we face Forest at the City Ground but what was significant was our current lack of central defenders given that Tom Anderson was the only player to get through a full ninety minutes.

Preston started the brighter and might have taken the lead but for Tom Heaton going down well to smother the ball and they certainly had a plan when we did get in possession and threaten and I’d suggest if they continue to play this way in the league they will soon be totting up the suspensions. Some of the challenges were unnecessary and had we not had a totally inept referee they might have found themselves having to make some early changes.

They paid the price for it though with the opening goal. We’d threatened just a couple of minutes earlier when only an excellent last ditch challenge prevented Johann Berg Gudmundsson from scoring but it almost seemed inevitable that Preston would suffer for the ever increasing number of free kicks they gave away.

Robbie Brady’s kick from the left hand side found Anderson at the far post and his header back across was headed home from close range by Jon Walters, for his second Burnley goal. Straight from the kick off we were back at them and Ashley Westwood, who linked up really well alongside Jack Cork in the midfield, played in Gudmundsson who was denied only by an excellent save from Chris Maxwell in the Preston goal.

By half time we should have been further in front. We dominated the remainder of the first half but had to settle for a one goal lead as we went in for the interval and we might have paid for that when Preston had a couple of early chances in the second half.

Normal service was soon resumed though. Walters was so, so close to a second when he headed a Matt Lowton cross onto the inside of the post. For a second it looked as though it might go in but it came back out with Brady at too tight an angle to turn it in.

The second goal came soon afterwards. We won a corner on the left. Brady’s flag kick was met by Kevin Long who headed home. That’s what we thought but the goal has been credited to Sam Vokes who claimed a touch. From behind that goal, I’m not so sure he got a touch at all but it is Sam’s goal.

A few minutes later the changes started. Nick Pope had replaced Heaton at half time but Sean Dyche was about to make another nine. That always disrupts a game and this was no different as we ended things with Fredrik Ulvestad at right-back and four strikers on the pitch.

Within just a few minutes of the first batch of changes, Steven Defour, who came on to the best of receptions from the Burnley fans, gave the ball away in midfield, allowing Preston to go through and pull one back through new recruit Sean Maguire.

They had a couple more efforts at goal, both missing the target by some distance, and Pope had little to do other than routine stuff. At the other end, Defour himself came closest with a shot just over the bar.

How do you report a friendly? If you win, you look at all the positives and see them as a step forward. If you lose then you make reference to the fact that it’s only a friendly. This one was another win and therefore a step forward, for what it’s worth but it was enjoyed by a sizeable following of Clarets. It was just without the tension and nervousness that was around in April 2016 on our last visit.

The teams were;

Preston: Chris Maxwell (Mathew Hudson 75), Liam Grimshaw, Josh Earl (Kevin O’Connor ht), John Welsh (Ben Pearson ht), Andy Boyle, Tommy Spurr, Daryl Horgan, Daniel Johnson (Alan Browne ht), Ben Pringle (Tom Barkhuizen 69), Eoin Doyle (Callum Robinson 75), Josh Harrop (Sean Maguire ht). Subs not used: Marnick Vermijl, Greg Cunningham, Melle Meulensteen.
Yellow Card: Josh Harrop.

Burnley: Tom Heaton (Nick Pope ht), Matt Lowton (Chris Long 81), Tom Anderson, Kevin Long (Ben Mee 64), Charlie Taylor (Stephen Ward 71), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Fredrik Ulvestad 75), Ashley Westwood (Steven Defour 64), Jack Cork (Jeff Hendrick 64), Robbie Brady (Ashley Barnes 71), Sam Vokes (Andre Gray 81), Jon Walters (Dan Agyei 81).
Yellow Cards: Sam Vokes, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes.

Referee: Rob Jones (Wirral).

Attendance: 5,633 (including 1,755 Clarets).

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