Preview- County v Preston North End( Saturday 15 July 2017) by Ian Watts

In the days since County and Saturday's opponents started their pre-season matches last weekend, they have had very different schedules. Whilst the Hatters men have had another friendly and been going about their everyday tasks - be they plastering or organising the last PE lessons of the school year - the Preston men have been in Ireland on a training camp.

Before setting off for the South coast of the Republic , Preston recorded a comfortable Friday night win at Bamber Bridge, with the following side:

Declan Rudd (Callum Roberts (Chris Maxwell)), Liam Grimshaw (Marnick Vermijl,), Josh Earl (Greg Cunningham,), Paul Gallagher (Ben Pearson,), Andy Boyle (Paul Huntington,), Ben Davies(Tommy Spurr,), Callum Robinson(Melle Meulensteen,), Daniel Johnson(Alan Browne,), Eoin Doyle(Jordan Hugill,), Stevie May(Tom Barkhuizen,), Daryl Horgan(Ben Pringle,).

Bridge held them to 1 goal until 35 minutes after an early deflected Davies header started the scoring. However they were three down at the break thanks to May and Robinson. Goals continued to be added to the tally in the second half. Barkhuizen reacted quickest to score from close in after the ball came loose when the Bridge keeper made a good save from a header., Hugill got in on the act with a dribble through the home defence and past the keeper - later adding the 7th goal as well - with midfielder Meulentseen netting between this brace.

Summer signing Declan Rudd was injured early on and will be a doubt for the EP game. 

Declan Rudd.

Amongst those missing from the line-up was Josh Harrop, who turned down a contract at Old Trafford despite scoring in the last game of last season on his Premier League debut. PNE will have to pay compensation to the Manchester side after he chose Deepdale instead. Also absent were two men Preston are bringing in from Cork City's all conquering League of Ireland side. Whether Sean Maguire and Kevin O'Connor (not the ex-County Irishman by the way) will be involved against the Hatters will depend on whether they head back with the rest of the squad. Both were in action for Cork last weekend.
Sean Maguire.

North End lost their manager during pre-season when former Hatter Simon Grayson (SCAN 1104)moved to relegated Sunderland. Although his replacement had been appointed before this game, the caretaker managers took charge. 

Simon Grayson.

This meant one of the few men to make a County appearance in a season where he signed after the March deadline was making the decisions. That man was goalkeeping Coach, and Grayson's County teammate, Alan Kelly(SCAN 1108). 

Alan Kelly.

He came in for an emergency loan spell in April 2001 and played the last two games, a draw at Bolton and a home victory against Sheffield Wednesday, results which saw the Hatters avoid relegation

There is a former County man in the Preston squad in Paul Huntington (SCAN 1268). Its eight years since the 29-year-old Central Defender had his own loan spell with the Hatters. Coming in from Leeds United he made his debut in September during County's year in admin. 

Paul Huntington.

That debut was a 2-2 draw at Yeovil Town when Carl Baker got both the visitor's goals/ Paul went on to play 9 times before returning to Elland Road. Paul was to return on a free transfer in February of the same season and go on to feature in another 17 games as the club dropped out of the third tier of English football. Released at season's end he then moved to the side he made his Hatters debut against.

The management team at County will have had at least one training session with their men this week to work on what they saw v Linotype Cheadle Heath Nomads and Altrincham. Depending on the side North End select Saturday's game could arguably see County facing their strongest opponents   since the drop into Non-League.

Ian Watts


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