Yes, it was the second game of pre-season. And yes, it was effectively against a Cork City reserve side as they worried about their Europa League qualifier on Thursday. But these games wouldn’t be played if it told the management nothing. So here’s three talking points from Preston’s game against Cork City on Tuesday night.
Where does Josh Harrop fit in?
To the immediate worry of everybody, Harrop was replaced with Adam O’Reilly after only 26 minutes. Luckily, it was just a knock and he should be fit for Saturday’s friendly against AFC Fylde. However, in his cameo against Cork City Harrop looked the least comfortable of the five players who occupied a wing position at some point for North End. Even Josh Earl’s overlapping runs from left back were better than most of what Harrop offered.
This isn’t a criticism of the former Manchester United man, more one of Alex Neil. Harrop is a no.10 and Graham Burke started there before Alan Browne took up the position in the second half. Obviously, there is a lot of pre-season left and in it Harrop needs a good run in his favoured no.10 position. He has quick feet and a wicked shot which should be enough to thrive there.
Genuine competition at CB.
Ben Davies won the 2018/19 Player of the Year last season and looks like a future captain. His place at the left of the central defensive pair seems solid. Against Bamber Bridge last Saturday, it was Jordan Storey who partnered Davies. Storey began last season as a 20-year-old boy but will begin this one as a 21-year-old man. He looked understandably weak and nervous at the beginning of the last campaign but now his physique is impressive, and he looks to have the necessary leadership qualities for the position.
Against Cork, it was North End’s only summer signing Patrick Bauer who partnered Ben Davies. The German represents genuinely good business for North End and is relatively proven. Admittedly he had little to do against the Irish side but looked assured, nonetheless. Both Bauer and Storey will make competent partners for Davies and the competition between them will only improve them.
Billy Bodin is back.
On social media it seemed to be Josh Ginnelly getting a lot of the credit for North End’s impressive and intensive second half. While the January signing was impressive, for me, Bodin was better. He played on the right of a front three, hogging his wing and was always an option. Whether it was his smart first touch passes or when taking on the Cork City full-back, the winger was massively impressive. He even came close to scoring and was only denied by the post.
After missing the entirety of last season through an ACL injury, the former Bristol Rovers player will be chomping at the bit to impress in preseason. Add to that, the fact he’s 28, in the final year of his contract and has never played a full Championship season and this season represents a huge opportunity for Bodin. Tuesday’s performance showed he’s ready to take it.