While Pools enjoyed more than their fair share of possession here at Deepdale this evening, it was Preston who were able to take their chances, picking up an emphatic 5-0 victory.
Attacking-wise in the first half Pools did everything right but score. Steve Howard led the line strongly, holding up the ball well and playing others in. Jonathan Franks was another in good form, getting down the wings with pace and testing the hosts with a number of crosses into the box.
Unfortunately things didn’t go quite as well at the other end as Pools conceded two first-half goals to allow Preston North End to take full control after a really bright start by Neale Cooper’s men.
It was Pools who pressed from the off with an Evan Horwood freekick picking out Howard inside the box but the big striker saw his header find only the arms of Steve Simonsen in the PNE goal.
With Andy Monkhouse lively and causing a problem early on down the left and the front line looking strong as a unit, Pools pressed the hosts for the opening 20 minutes or so.
Jonathan Franks hit three quick corners in to test Simonsen and his defence but despite Pools’ pressure, the hosts were first to each kick.
There was a warning for Pools when Dvaid Amoo set off down the right to twist and turn his way into space before sending a teasing cross into the box where Chris Beardsley nipped in between two men to get a header on goal. His effort went just wide of the post and Pools were let off on this occasion.
But with 28 minutes having been played, Preston took advantage of some uncertainty at the back from Pools to grab the opener.
With the ball bouncing round inside the area and Cooper’s men unable to clear their lines, Joel Byrom pounced to smash the ball past Flinders and into the roof of the net to make it 1-0.
And things quickly got worse for Pools as within two minutes, the hosts doubled their lead.
This time it was former tormentor Stuart Beavon who caused Pools problems when at Wycombe Wanderers last season who was on the end of things; with the referee taking a big touch in the build-up, Beavon sent a great strike home from 25 yards to make it 2-0.
The goals came as a big blow to Pools who had really started brightly in this game, looking so confident and determined on the attack.
Scott Flinders was called back into action to deny the hosts a third as he reacted well to tip an effort from Amoo round the post.
Pools had a couple of chances to get back into the game before the break – Monkhouse firing over from distance and Franks twice seeing good efforts go wide.
Half time arrived and Neale Cooper clearly had plenty to say to his players as they returned to the pitch looking full of positivity.
Pools again looked strong going forward, with Franks full of running in the final third. There were again chances on goal from Pools – Franks testing Simonsen only to lose out and Sweeney pushing in from the right but there was no breakthrough.
When a Franks corner from the right sailed into the area bound for Monkhouse, a goal looked on the cards but winger was denied as a defender arrived to tip the ball over the bar.
Despite Pools dominating for spells, the hosts once again countered to good effect and moved the game out of reach.
PNE pushed down the right with pace where a lovely ball was lifted over to the far post for sub Jack King who headed home the third of the night.
Just minutes later and it was nearly de-ja vu for Pools as Sodje broke down the right to send the ball into the area for an unmarked King but this time the ball just missed the sub and went out of play.
Pools continued to enjoy large spells of possession, passing the ball around neatly but with no end product on the night, the hosts were comfortable and looked a real threat on the break.
A late corner kick for the hosts was converted by Scott Laird to make it 4-0 and then Laird, who has a a habit of scoring against Pools, cut in from the left to finish with ease across goal and rounded things off at 5-0.
Full Time: Preston North End 5 Pools 0
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Franks, Walton, Murray (Lynch 46), Monkhouse, Sweeney, Howard
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Humphreys, Poole, Baldwin, Holden, James
Preston North End: Simonsen, Laird, Candsell-Sherriff, Amoo (Sodje 60), Wroe, Byrom (Mousinho 79), Welsh,Beardsley (King 44), Hayhurst, Wright, Beavon
Subs Not Used: Stuckmann, Robertson, Buchanan, Monakana