Preston North End took a deserved victory at Turner’s Cross last night, but an outstanding performance from Cork City goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan ensured the Championship side had to earn the win.
A crowd of 1,470 was present for this Cork Airport friendly but, with the focus on Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Progrès Niederkorn of Luxembourg, City had a team composed of fringe players and U19s.
As a result, the visitors were always likelier to have the better of the play.
While they did exert more of the pressure, it wasn’t until late in the first half that they took the lead and a string of excellent saves from Ryan in the second period ensured the scoreline remained at 1-0 until Josh Ginnelly scored a late clincher.
With Seán Maguire not involved following a later return to pre-season training, Graham Burke was the only Irish presence in the Preston starting line-up, though local lad Adam O’Reilly was an early substitute.
The tone was set from an early stage as Preston held the ball well. Burke was denied by Ryan following an early scramble while Tom Barkhuizen had a low shot across goal and wide.
The hosts’ only real effort of note in the opening half was a long-range Dáire O’Connor effort which didn’t really trouble Declan Rudd.
At the other end soon after that, O’Reilly sent a low shot wide.
Preston broke the deadlock seven minutes before half-time. While City right-back Enda O’Neill did well to cut out a Daniel Johnson pass intended for Barkhuizen, the ball fell nicely for Jayden Stockley to curl a shot home.
For the second half, Preston had an all-new 11 and the lead was almost doubled two minutes after the restart, O’Neill getting in a fine challenge to deny Josh Ginnelly.
Louis Moult flashed a half-volley wide while Ginnelly wound his way through the City defence but Alan Bennett made an important block.
Just before the hour-mark, Billy Bodin’s low shot was deflected on to the post and Moult looked set to bury the rebound but Ryan made a superb save and the goalkeeper was to make three more stops which were just as impressive.
Bodin, Ginnelly, and Cork native Alan Browne all failed to find a way past Ryan while Moult’s curling shot struck the angle of post and crossbar.
With City running the bench, the chances continued to come for Preston, defender Paul Huntington heading over from a corner on 82 minutes before Ginnelly doubled the lead on 85, showing lovely footwork to create space for himself in the area before a cool finish beyond Ryan.
Ryan; O’Neill (Bowdren 71), Honohan, Bennett (O’Brien 60), Kavanagh; Byrne, Boylan (Meaney 66); D O’Connor, Rainsford (O’Brien-Whitmarsh half-time), Dinanga (Collins 71); Crowley (Holland 66).
Rudd; Clarke, Bauer, Davies, Earl; Pearson, Johnson; Barkhuizen, Burke, Harrop (O’Reilly 25); Stockley.
Ripley; Rafferty, Huntington, Storey, Hughes; Ledson, Gallagher; Bodin, Browne, Ginnelly; Moult.
A Buttimer (Cork).