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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 12th March 2022

Preston North End 1 - Queens Park Rangers 3

Chupa Akpom suffered a season-ending hamstring injury but QPR still took full advantage of a poor performance from Preston at Deepdale. The visitors started well, with Cameron Dawson making an early save from Willian José, and took the lead with eight minutes on the clock when young loanee Alan Clark volleyed home from Jordan Mutch's corner. Preston offered little by way of response, with Akpom's 20th minute replacement Izzy Brown introducing himself with a powerful free kick on 26 that Dawson did well to hold at the first attempt. The lifeline came on 37 - a dreadful throw-in from Paul Dummett was intercepted by Abdulla Al-Yazeedi, who unselfishly squared for Steve Michealis to drive in his 20th of the campaign for North End. They would soon have a chance to take the lead when Daniel Johnson's cross picked out Rico Henry at the far post, only for Alex Smithies to make a diving save, but from the resulting break, Willian José played in Izzy Brown for a fine finish at the near post.

After returning early for the second half, Preston did rally - Jordan Mutch stuck out a knee to deny Rico Henry, whilst Marnick Vermilj smashed wide and Sam Bowles hooked over as a flurry of corners went unrewarded. Too often though Preston looked for the difficult pass, leaving Al-Yazeedi and Michealis looking frustrated, and when Izzy Brown added the third from an Antony Evans pass on 76, heads seemed to drop. With home supporters drifting away, there would be no coming back for North End, with Daniel Johnson's tame effort in injury time summing up a desperate day for Preston in front of goal.

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan, Johnson, Burgess (Huddlestone 76), Michealis, Al-Yazeedi

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Coughlan, Vanzie, Smith, Mavididi

QPR; Smithies, Darikwa, Hall (c), Harness, Dummett (Turnbull 56), Cullen, Mutch, Clark (Evans 72), Sawyers, Willan José, Akpom (Brown 20)

Unused; Long, Kaikai, Sama, Byrne

Referee; S Attwell - Attendance; 18,193

With results elsewhere keeping Preston in the playoff places, Fairway at least had a small crumb of comfort to take from the game, whilst the consolation goal for Steve Michealis saw the Australian become the first Preston player to score over 20 in the League since 2014-15. That aside, however, the manager spent his Sunday fluctuating between worry that the wheels were beginning to come off, and anger at the below-par showing.

He ignored training on Monday morning, instead travelling to Chorley to watch the Under 23's beat Bournemouth thanks to a Stephy Mavididi goal, reappearing late in the session to offer a few choice words to his first team. He warned that there would be changes for Saturday, telling the squad he expected a much improved performance for the trip to Norwich City

Better news followed by Wednesday, with Nicky Hughes passed fit to return, with the manager earmarking him for a role on the bench on Saturday so as not to risk a recurrence, as Scotland called Hughes and Brian Bell into the Under 21 squad for the upcoming games against Israel and France . Fairway delayed naming his squad for the Norwich game until the end of the light session on Friday morning, but, good to his word, would make changes - Tom Clarke and Jamie Burgess both dropping to the bench with Brian Bell and Tom Huddlestone replacing them. Whilst the return to fitness of Nicky Hughes would mean that Tom Coughlan missed out altogether, he would be one of five players earning international calls on Friday, added to the Ireland Under 21 squad, whilst Joaquim Manjate, Daniel Johnson, Abdulla Al-Yazeedi and Steve Michealis would again represent their respective nations at Senior level.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 19th March 2022

Norwich City 2 - Preston North End 0

Norwich City put in one of their best performances of the season to defeat Preston in the final game before the international break. The visitors went into the game off the back of a disappointing defeat at home to QPR, but whilst they were much improved here, saw a good chance go begging early on when Steve Michealis uncharacteristically smashed over on 8 when clean through. Jamel Lascelles would then block well from Daniel Johnson as North End sought an early goal to settle their nerves, but it was not to be, with Tom Huddlestone shooting over on 24 and Michealis seeing Declan Rudd claw his drive onto the post three minutes later. Norwich gradually began to establish a foothold, with Cameron Dawson saving well from Adam Cookson on 34, but it was still somewhat against the run of blay when, on 43, Jay Dasilva combined well with Robbie Brady for the Irishman to cross for Abel Hernández to head beyond Dawson from close range.

Preston again started the second period on top, with Michealis wide on 49 and Huddlestone earning a corner with a fearsome drive on 53 that Jordan Rossiter deflected behind, with Norwich's second, on 62, again on the counter - Dasilva's cross blocked, and Cookson's sublime corner glanced home by Abel Hernández from six yards out. Roared on by the home faithful, City almost added a third - Nélson Oliveira drawing a fine save from Dawson two minutes later, but even the addition of Nicky Hughes could not help a Preston side who dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge. When they did create a good opportunity, ten from time, Rudd was equal to it, with Michealis denied from close range. Norwich's chances were fewer - Grant Hanley headed over at the death from Alex Pritchard's free kick - but the two goal margin proves that it is not how much of the ball you see, but what you do with it that really counts.

Norwich; Rudd (c), Mijailovic, Lascelles (Dean 78), Hanley, Dasilva, Cookson (Pritchard 67), Rossiter (Pearson 59), Ndong, Brady, Oliveira, Hernández

Unused; Ingram, Jobling, Furlong, McCarthy

Preston; Dawson, Bell, Bowles, Burn (c), Vermilj (Burgess 64), Henry, Bryan (Hughes 61), Johnson, Huddlestone, Michealis, Al-Yazeedi

Unused; Clarke, Manjate, Vanzie, Smith, Mavididi

Referee; G Eltringham - Attendance; 23,762

In contrast to the defeat a week previously, there were few harsh words in the dressing room following the defeat, as Fairway acknowledged to his side that they had simply been beaten by a team who were better - where it mattered - on the day.

With sixteen days before the next game for the First Team, there would be time to regroup, and a morale boosting trip out to a local curry house was quickly arranged for Sunday evening on arrival back in the North West. Before then, for Fairway at least, there would be the small matter of an Under 18 friendly as he sought to give those youngsters still on trial contracts another chance to impress. A drab goalless draw away at Darlington did not particularly help their prospects, but, nonetheless, Fairway did take the opportunity to watch, with the manager keen to see - and be seen - at Under 18 games where possible.

As several players were away with their countries, Fairway was able to concentrate on working with the coaches to devise ways to improve Preston's recent fortunes. After much conversation, they decided that there would no huge changes - and that it would be through sheer hard work that Preston would work through their sticky spell. They were also clear that those remaining U16's who had not yet earned contracts had not shown enough, and it was left to the manager to break the bad news to Jimmy Wiles, Peter King, Darran Clarke, Mick Hibbert, Liam Hearn and Drew Raynes that their future lay elsewhere. Fairway knew that he was not alone amongst managers in feeling that it was one of the hardest parts of the job, but nonetheless was pleased to hear that the majority wanted to try their luck elsewhere in the game.

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Over the weekend Fairway was able to catch up on the reports from the international games, with Abdulla Al-Yazeedi disappointing for Qatar in a 3-1 defeat to Kuwait , but Joaquim Manjate putting in a fine performance for Mozambique against Niger . Tom Coughlan meanwhile operated in an unfamiliar role on the left of midfield for Ireland Under 21's , and seemed to enjoy the position, playing well in a 2-1 win against Slovakia , whilst Brian Bell and Nicky Hughes would be frustrated as Scotland Under 21's were held 0-0 by Israel . His main attention however fell on England , with a somewhat experimental side featuring one starting debutant, Louis Walton of Chelsea , and another off the bench, Arsenal's Jeet Padaruth , currently out on loan at Celtic , recording a 1-0 win away in Russia thanks to a Marcus Rashford goal ten minutes in.

Sunday though would see the manager again concerned over an injury - with teenage prospect Alex Lane picking up a calf strain in the penultimate league game for the Under 18's against Fleetwood Town , a match which resulted in a 2-1 defeat for Jordan Sharvin's side. Michael Bywater scored the Preston goal, but Lane would be ruled out for three weeks, missing at least the first of a quartet of friendly games for the youngsters, ahead of their final league game at Oldham Athletic in May. With Preston's increased profile had come increased opportunities for such games, with the matches starting with one at Deepdale on Sunday 3rd April, against 'an eleven' from French giants Bordeaux , as well as games against more commonly faced opposition, all away from home, with Jordan Sharvin's side facing Accrington Stanley U18s and Southport U18s , as well as the first team of local North West Counties league AFC Blackpool .

Whilst Nicky Hughes made two for Scotland Under 21's on Monday night in a narrow 4-3 defeat to France , with Brian Bell also on the teamsheet for Scot Gemmill's side, Fairway's attentions were closer to home, and he almost fell out of his chair when an ecstatic Duncan Shearer phoned to report the result - Preston's Under 23's had smashed MK Dons 7-0 in Buckinghamshire, with Rico Vanzie scoring 4, Stephy Mavididi two and youngster Michael Bywater his first at that level.

Vanzie's performance certainly gave his manager food for thought, and after hearing that Abdulla Al-Yazeedi had again disappointed for Qatar in a 2-1 defeat to Uzbekistan , Fairway decided the time was right to give the teenager a rest, with Vanzie pencilled in for the visit of Sunderland in the next League game. For Daniel Johnson things were a little better, as he featured for the full 0- in a 2-2 draw for Jamaica against El Salvador , whilst for Joaqim Manjate there would also be disappointment, as his Mozambique side went down 2-1 to Ghana . England , meanwhile, were unable to win their second game in a week, held 1-1 in Rome by Italy after Danny Welbeck struck in the second half to cancel out Federico Bernardeschi's early free kick. 

Another of Preston's strikers, Ross Soutar , would also enjoy a good end to the month, as Fairway was pleased to hear that the young Scot, out on loan at Carlisle , had been awarded third place in the Young Player of the Month award for League Two after a decent return of four goals in eight games since joining the Cumbrian side. Fairway felt that Soutar had something to offer, but, even with this goalscoring rate, it was clear he desperately needed first team football, and noted to Mark Morrison that perhaps next season a longer loan spell would give Soutar the chance to really improve. 

Edited by displaced_seagull

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With a blank Saturday for the First team and the globetrotting members of the Preston squad all reporting back fit, Fairway looked forward to Sunday's Under 18 international friendly against Bordeaux with anticipation. He would not be disappointed - a fine display of football of differing styles from both sides saw Preston's youngsters score an early goal through one of the recent signings, Tim Price , then defend superbly to shut out the technically superb French team, mostly comprised of youngsters but who also included a handful of more experienced players, including out of favour first teamer and recent Romanian international Ianis Hagi , on loan from AC Milan in their ranks, holding on to a 1-0 victory which Jordan Sharvin in particular was delighted with. 

After the much needed break, everyone at the club seemed fresher and ready to face the challenges of a potentially exciting final month of the season. Although his team had fallen just out of the playoff places into seventh, Fairway felt confident that the opportunity had not been lost to make the playoffs, and told the squad at a Tuesday morning meeting that he had high hopes for the remainder of the campaign. He would also reveal his side for the evening visit of Sunderland with, as expected, Nicky Hughes returning for Tom Huddlestone and Abdulla Al-Yazeedi making way for a seemingly revitalised Rico Vanzie .

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Tuesday 5th April 2022

Preston North End 2 - Sunderland 1

Preston stunned third placed Sunderland by coming from behind to win with ten men in an entertaining game at Deepdale. The hosts fired an early warning shot with David Raya forced to turn Steve Michealis' dipping effort over the top on 5, but as play settled down, Sunderland began to turn the screw, with Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair both coming close. Preston though were by no means out of it in the first half, and on 31, saw a fine flowing passage of play end with Rico Vanzie's tame effort comfortably held. Vanzie, making his first start in several months, would again be in prime position on 44, but could only steer wide from Kean Bryan's through ball.

Having finished the first half strongly, Preston started the second in similar fashion - Michealis tripped by Jason Dymond on 49, with Daniel Johnson's free kick well held by Raya. It seemed though as if Sunderland were holding something back, and on 54, they would unleash it - Watmore pulling wide before surging down the left, to cross into the box. Cameron Dawson got a hand to the ball, tipping it onto the post, but could only watch in horror as Joel Asoro gleefully smashed home from a matter of inches for the simplest of his ten goals all season. The Swedish striker should have added a second on 59, heading over from another fine Watmore cross, with Preston manager Stuart Fairway ringing the changes after seeing Dawson just deny Sam Field from long range on 67. Three minutes later, his side would have their reward - Brian Bell's header parried by Raya from Rico Henry's inswinging corner, with Sunderland struggling to clear, and Nicky Hughes announcing his return with a rocket from the edge of the area to level the scores. After working so hard to equalise however, a red card shaped hole would be blown in Preston's hopes just two minutes later - Brian Bell's two footed lunge on the tricky Watmore seeing a straight red card, as the tide once again turned towards the visitors. Fairway gambled, leaving just two in the centre of a defence already looking hard-pressed with Preston's wingbacks too often caught out of place by the pace of Watmore in particular, but they could just not break through, with Asoro twice denied by Cameron Dawson and Jamie Burgess bravely blocking a fierce Watmore drive on 81. The mood around the ground though would still be that Preston would be fortunate to hold on for the point, with some armchair managers in the stands urging Preston's midfield not to push too far forward - but on 86, the touchline manager would be vindicated for his approach, as Hughes' lofted free kick would be glanced over the onrushing Raya by sub Stephy Mavididi . After seeing his opposite number beaten by the spin of the ball earlier in the game, the Spaniard could only turn and watch as the ball bounced twice before rolling over the line. Mavididi, so often this season used as an impact player, threw his arms up in delight, hardly able to believe the turnaround, before Sunderland lay siege to the Preston half, with Kean Bryan dropping back to reestablish the usual three man central defensive line. Bryan's addition helped - intercepting an Asoro-bound ball from Adam Clayton, whilst Sam Bowles would head away in stoppage time. Sunderland, to their credit, would not give up despite the late drama - Sam Field sending the last kick of the game just wide from 25 yards - but for Preston, the victory could have a huge psychological boost ahead of the final six games which will define their season.

Preston; Dawson, Bell, Bowles, Burn (c), Vermilj, Henry, Bryan, Johnson (Burgess 67), Hughes, Michealis (Mavididi 67), Vanzie (Al-Yazeedi 77)

Unused; Clarke, Manjate, Huddlestone, Smith

Sunderland; Raya (c), Naughton, Lienhart, Dymond, Doherty (Williams 72), McNair (King 71), Watmore, Mowatt (Clayton 71), Field, Little, Asoro

Unused; Pope, Mbakogu, Kabasele, Seavill

Referee; R Madley - Attendance; 19,761

Despite his delight at the win, Fairway would come down hard on young Brian Bell on Wednesday morning, fining the defender a week's wages for his reckless challenge at such a crucial stage in the game. His ban would come through immediately, meaning club captain Tom Clarke would earn a recall for Saturday, but more worrying was the news that the punishment could be more, with an FA disciplinary committee meeting in a week's time to discuss extending the ban.

With his ban imminent, a contrite Bell seemed to participate, rather than enjoy, training for the remainder of the week, whilst come Friday morning there would be another absentee for the weekend, with Tom Huddlestone ruled out for a fortnight after over-exerting himself in the weights room. Fairway turned to another Tom, Tom Coughlan , in order to fill the place on the bench, with Dave Byrne , one of three members of the Under 18 squad out of contract at the end of the season, again called up as a defensive backup for the first team.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 9th April 2022

Birmingham City 0 - Preston North End 1

Blues interim manager David Byrne refused to apologise for playing with only one up front at home as Preston ground out a 1-0 win in a game which offered little in the way of genuine quality at St Andrews. Neither side offered much of note in the opening exchanges, with Blues lone front runner Ogo Obi setting the scene for what was to come by meeting Charlie Colkett's long ball to head down for Andrew Oates to smash well wide. With Birmingham backing off, the only goal of the game came on 19 - Preston playing through the congested midfield, leading to Rico Vanzie slipping the ball into the path of Steve Michealis for a powerful finish. After the hosts gave the ball away cheaply from the restart, Michealis should have added a second from Vanzie's glorious pass a minute later, steering wide of target when well placed, before Obi's corner was headed wide by Maikel Kieftenbeld on the half hour. 

It proved to be the final chance of the first half, and despite Birmingham's improvement after the interval, they still failed to trouble Cameron Dawson - Dennon Lewis crossing for Obi to head wide on 50 before Sam Platt prodded wide from close range from Leandro Bacuna on 56. Byrne would later reference Platt's chance in his post match interview, and in truth it was a good opportunity, with the 17 year old local lad showing great awareness to exchange passes with the fullback before finding space at the far post. Preston seemed to concentrate after the near miss, stepping up a gear, with Michealis seeing a shot tipped wide by Giedrius Arlauskis. Vanzie would then fire a free kick just wide after Bacuna tripped Clarke on the edge as Birmingham struggled to clear, with sub Tom Coughlan arrowing a shot just over the top on 63. Michealis would twice fire over as Preston sought the second, with Birmingham offering little in way of response, but the Australian seemed to be snatching at opportunities from distance, with the visitors unable to break through the hosts deep defensive line. When they did, in stoppage time, Arlauskis was equal to Rico Henry's half-volley, with Preston having to be content with just the single goal victory - and Birmingham supporters disappointed that their side had not offered more going forward.

Birmingham; Arlauskis, Bacuna (Coton 62), Morrison, Shotton, Leigh, Lewis (Adams 62), Kieftenbeld, Oates (Platt 45), Colkett, Buck, Obi

Unused; Bowen, Daly, Brock-Madsen, Tolfrey

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj (Burgess 62), Henry, Bryan, Johnson (Coughlan 62), Hughes, Michealis, Vanzie

Unused; Byrne, Manjate, Al-Yazeedi, Mavididi, Smith

Referee; J Adcock - Attendance; 18,308

Preston's second victory in succession had given their playoff hopes a real boost, and Fairway was delighted to hear on the way back from the Midlands that Ipswich Town had slipped up at mid-table Huddersfield , meaning that his side sat just one goal behind the Suffolk club in seventh. Looking over their shoulders, Preston would now have a 9 point advantage over eight placed Leeds United , meaning that, to a certain extent, their season was still very much in their own hands. 

It was a theme Fairway warmed to throughout the week, reminding his players that they had the opportunity to achieve something that no North End squad had managed since 2008-09, by finishing in the playoff places in the second tier of English football. Concentration, he urged, would be key, telling the squad at Monday's meeting that they had been guilty of letting victories slip from their grasp over the course of the season, and that they would need sure that they kept working until the final whistle in matches with time running out. 

The Under 23's were absent, as they prepared for a trip to Sheffield United in the evening, but Fairway knew that Duncan Shearer was on the same page, and the Scotsman admitted to mixed emotions as his side just about clung on for a 3-2 win over the Blades, with Eddie Ryder, Alex Lane and Stephy Mavididi scoring before allowing the hosts back into the game with two goals in the final quarter of an hour. 

Fairway would learn the following morning that he would have to do without Brian Bell for the forthcoming Easter weekend games, with the young defender, as expected, seeing his ban increased to three matches following his dismissal against Sunderland . He would miss both Saturday's home game against Oxford United and the Monday match against third placed Middlesbrough , with the manager expecting to have to rotate his squad slightly. Whilst he had no intention of taking Oxford lightly, there would be opportunities for Jamie Burgess, Stephy Mavididi and Adam Smith on Saturday, with Daniel Johnson, Steve Michealis and Rico Henry dropping down to the bench.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 16th April 2022

Preston North End 2 - Oxford United 2

Preston manager Stuart Fairway caused eyebrows to be raised with his team selection, with an eye on Monday's game at Middlesbrough, with Oxford's Paul Dickov claiming that the changes had given his side extra incentive at Deepdale. Nonetheless, Preston dominated the early exchanges, with Jamie Burgess and Rico Vanzie both close, before Tashan Oakley-Boothe put the visitors ahead with a 25 yard screamer on 16. If the visitors hoped they could build on their lead, they would be mistaken - veteran Theo Walcott heading wide on 31, before a defensive error - so often the cause of dropped points for Dickov's side this season - allowed the hosts to level. There initially appeared little danger when Jamie Burgess' through ball was slightly overhit for Stephy Mavididi, but Joe Riley's casual touch had no chance of reaching Adam Smith in the Oxford goal, with a gleeful Rico Vanzie smashing home his first goal in 28 hours of football to level the scores. Whilst Preston were creating chances, they did lack the clinical finishing of Steve Michealis, an unused substitute throughout, with his replacement Mavididi shooting wide on 39 before Kean Bryan's volley flew into the side netting two minutes later.

Fairway introduced Rico Henry for his own Adam Smith - much to the relief of the commentary team - at the interval, with the hosts stepping up a gear. Sam Bowles would see a header deflected wide on 47, with Nicky Hughes unfortunate from the resulting corner to volley inches wide, before Vanzie's free kick saw first Henry and then Bowles hit the woodwork on 54. Whilst it seemed only a matter of time before Preston went ahead, Oxford's valiant defending and constant pressing in midfield forced Fairway to send for Daniel Johnson and Abdulla Al-Yazeedi on 70, with Oxford sub Chris Maguire making a lively cameo with two well-struck free kicks that kept Cameron Dawson occupied. Pressure eventually told on 80 - Henry and Al-Yazeedi involved in the buildup of a free kick, and Nicky Hughes' shot on the turn from 18 yards out worthy of winning any game. There would though be a final twist in the tale, and with Oxford going for broke, the impressive Oakley-Boothe ghosted past Henry to tee up Marvin Johnson on 83. His miskick fell kindly for Rob Hall, who struck powerfully but inaccurately, with Johnny Burn unfortunate to divert the effort beyond Dawson. The second was enough for Oxford, who killed the game at every opportunity, with even Preston's long range specialists, Johnson and Hughes, unable to carve out opportunities.  

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Smith (Henry 45), Bryan (D Johnson 70), Burgess, Hughes, Mavididi (Al-Yazeedi 70), Vanzie

Unused; Byrne, Manjate, Coughlan, Michealis

Oxford; A Smith, Facey, Nelson (Ribeiro 69), N Smith, Riley, Windass (M Johnson 73), Oakley-Boothe, Lundstram, Hall, Hemmings, Walcott (Maguire 63)

Unused; Simpson, Walsh, Jardine, Tanner

Referee; A Taylor - Attendance; 18,192

Whilst the draw was somewhat disappointing, Fairway was delighted to hear that results elsewhere meant that Preston had effectively secured a victory, with defeats for Ipswich and Brentford seeing his side up to fifth in the table. The gamble of making changes, he felt, had almost paid off, although the difficult second part of the equation would follow on Monday, with the trip to Middlesbrough

With an early start for the crosscountry trip to Teesside, Fairway toyed with the idea of not travelling for Sunday morning's Under 18 friendly against Accrington Stanley , but, using the trip as an opportunity to visit family on his wife's side, was pleased to be in attendance as Alan McManus, Alex Lane and Paul King scored in a comfortable 3-0 victory. The manager was most impressed though with the performance of 16 year old Eddie Ryder , the standout performer for the second game in succession, and resolved to ask Daniel Johnson , a player who Ryder openly admired, to work with the teenager closely over the coming months to share some of his experience. 

His changes were fully expected, with Steve Michealis, Rico Henry and Daniel Johnson all regaining their starting berths at the Riverside, whilst Tom Huddlestone , who had travelled, was just unable to return to the bench after failing a late fitness test, handing teenager Dave Byrne another opportunity to be involved.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Monday 18th April 2022

Middlesbrough 0 - Preston North End 1

A busy bank holiday weekend of football saw an enthralling late game in The Championship, as Preston moved into fourth after outplaying Middlesbrough at The Riverside. North End, who recalled three key players who had been rested on Saturday, set their stall out early, with Rico Henry seeing an early effort tipped behind by Neto before Johnny Burn headed the resulting corner over. The home side were not at the races early on, second to every ball, with Rico Vanzie seeing an effort well held on 13, but recovered their composure to pose a threat to Preston, with Cameron Dawson doing well to deny Adam Reach on 15. The only goal of the game came on 30 - Reach making a real hash at clearing Daniel Johnson's corner away from the six yard box, allowing Rico Vanzie to poke home against his former club. 

Boro's attempt at recovery towards the end of the first half would come to nothing, but a chance immediately after the interval when Gustav Engvall headed wide from Carl Chappell's cross proved that the hosts could still threaten a North End side who looked comfortable in possession. Steve Michealis saw his effort held by Neto as Preston pushed, whilst Vanzie would also be denied a second when Joe Gomez recovered well to tackle on 54. With the hosts struggling, an unusual triple substitution disrupted Preston, but did not help from an attacking perspective, with Arnel Jakupovic picking out Engvall only for the shot on the turn to be claimed by Dawson. The visitors would then suffer a blow on 74 when Daniel Johnson was forced off, worryingly leaving the field in a neck brace after several minutes of treatment, and were further disappointed when Steve Michealis wasted two chances within the space of 90 seconds to put the game beyond doubt. Jakupovic would strike the outside of the post late on from an acute angle after Willyan's cross was overhit - but for Sean Dyche, dropping points against strugglers Cambridge and now fellow playoff contenders Preston has made it a very unhappy Bank Holiday weekend.

Middlesbrough; Neto, Bedeau (Watson 56), Gomez, Cooper, John, Willyan, Ramírez (Ring 56) Chappell, Reach, Engvall, Bamford (Jakupovic 56)

Unused; Mitov, Clough, Marshall, Quinn

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan (Burgess 59), Johnson (Coughlan 74), Hughes, Michealis, Vanzie (Al-Yazeedi 85)

Unused; Byrne, Manjate, Smith, Mavididi

Referee; L Mason - Attendance; 32,556

As the result ensured Burnley would be promoted back to the Premier League, Fairway sent a congratulatory message to his good friend Carsten Jancker on Monday evening before facing the press. He was able to confirm that the news on Daniel Johnson was better than it had first been feared, with the influential midfielder ruled out for a fortnight with strained neck muscles, rather than anything more serious. 
After a day off on Tuesday, Fairway was pleased to welcome Tom Huddlestone back after injury when he returned to Springfields on Wednesday morning, with the veteran midfielder thrust straight back into the squad for Saturday's visit of Hull City , one of his former clubs. It did not escape the manager's attention that Preston had been touted as heavy favourites for the game, but he was pleased to see that the attitude in training remained first class, with Rico Vanzie looking a changed man after ending his long barren streak.

As the week came to a close, Fairway would make two changes for the Hull game, with Jamie Burgess replacing the injured Johnson, and Huddlestone filling the resulting gap on the bench, and Brian Bell replacing Dave Byrne amongst the subs after his suspension. As he arrived at the ground on Saturday morning the atmosphere was one of tense expectation. Victory, all knew, would ensure Preston take part in the end of season playoffs.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 23rd April 2022

Preston North End 1 - Hull City 0

In-form Preston striker Rico Vanzie thanked the Deepdale club for sticking with him throughout his lengthy spell without a goal after scoring his third in as many matches to ensure that a playoff place was achieved with two matches remaining. His side though made hard work of beating a resilient Hull City, who stifled Preston at every turn and were perhaps unlucky not to come away with a point. The visitors could have opened the scoring on 8 when Liam Cooper headed over from a Christian Fuchs free kick, whilst Preston were forced into shooting from range, causing little danger to rookie 'keeper Steven Kellacher who again stood in for the injured Karl Darlow. Kellacher would be beaten on 34, although few would have stopped Rico Vanzie's optimistic effort from 30 yards which flew into the net via the aid of a slight deflection, but it was Cameron Dawson who was the busier of the two keepers as Hull finished the first half strongly, holding from Liam Cooper on 39 then seeing Johnny Burn block from Jeppe Okkels on the stroke of half time.

Vanzie would shoot wide on 50 as Preston looked for a second goal to ease the tension, with Hull defending well and, on 64, desperately unlucky not to have equalised when Jason Cummings struck a shot against the crossbar from just outside the box. Fuchs would then send a free kick over as the tide threatened to turn against the home side, who would also see Rico Henry booked for persistent fouling, but Hull just did not have enough in their locker to grab a goal as Preston finished strongly. Tom Coughlan tested Kellacher from distance on 70, and Jamie Burgess should have done better at the death, but an ugly win is a win nonetheless, with North End sealing a playoff place for the first time in over 20 years. 

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan (Huddlestone 60), Burgess, Hughes (Coughlan 60), Michealis, Vanzie

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Smith, Mavididi

Hull; Kellacher, Palmer, Walsh, O'Connell, Cooper, Fuchs, Smallwood, Vela (Byrne 68), Mason (Bridcutt 45), Okkels (Russell 56), Cummings

Unused; Woods, Sands, Grocott, Barnes

Referee; M Clattenburg - Attendance; 19,694

Fairway would permit brief celebrations in the changing rooms before warning his side that they had got away with a somewhat below par performance. Allowing his words to sink in, he paused before revealing that second placed Sheffield Wednesday had slipped up - meaning that Burnley had clinched the title, but more importantly, Preston sat just three points behind Wednesday with two games to play - and that automatic promotion was still an - albeit slight - possibility.

The day's other results had not escaped the attentions of Andy Lamb either, who popped in on the Fairway family on Saturday evening to offer his heartfelt congratulations. Fairway had seldom seen his Chairman so happy, and it was clear that, as the business end of the season approached, Lamb was just as excited as any of his former terrace-mates. 

Whilst the second of the FA Cup Semi finals saw Chelsea beat West Bromwich Albion to meet Manchester City at Wembley in the final, Fairway's attentions were closer to home, as the Under 18's crusied to a 4-1 win away at AFC Blackpool on Sunday afternoon, with Alex Lane and Eddie Ryder both scoring two apiece. Both goalscorers would be made available for the Under 23's the following day, as Duncan Shearer took his side to Leeds United for their final league game of the season, with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Stephy Mavididi header the ideal way to conclude a successful campaign. Shearer's side had finished second in their Group, which, Fairway was assured, would mean that, like the senior team, the Under 23's would also have Playoff games to finish the season.

Media interest picked up throughout the week, with the exciting conclusion to the Championship season matching that of the top flight, where five points would separate the top four sides, with Manchester City currently four points ahead of Arsenal with three games remaining, but Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur also both still in with a shout of the title should the Citizens slip up. Whilst he was not overly happy at having to make time for interviews, Fairway took the decision to do so in order to keep the spotlight off his players, and would also take the opportunity to travel to Sunderland on Friday evening to watch the Black Cats take on Champions Burnley in a game which could prove crucial to any hopes of automatic promotion. A nervy, cat and mouse affair followed - but when Christian Kabasele stooped to head home late in the second half, the 2-1 victory for the hosts just about shattered any hopes of seeing his side avoid the playoff lottery. Whilst still mathematically possible, Fairway knew that not only would Preston now have to beat both Huddersfield and their final day opponents, Barnsley , but also hope that Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland both lost their final games as well. 

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 30th April 2022

Huddersfield Town 1 - Preston North End 1

Huddersfield ended Preston's automatic promotion hopes with a display that would have frustrated lovers of attacking football. The hosts recorded a massive 65% possession in the game, yet registered just five shots on target and executed their game plan to perfection, leaving Preston chasing shadows at times. A game of few real chances saw Huddersfield score with their first, when the excellent Javario Dilrosun got away on the left to cross for Ismaël Bennacer to sidefoot home from close range. A blast from captain Tom Clarke seemed to wake up the Preston defence, and from Huddersfield's next opportunity the skipper led by example, getting up above Jacob Murphy to win an important header, before Cameron Dawson turned over Dilrosun's header as the ball looped loose. Preston seemed to take heart from avoiding the second, and on 24, drew level when Rico Vanzie's excellent pass teed up Rico Henry on the left, who crossed low for Jamie Burgess to drive into the corner. 

Despite the equaliser Huddersfield had the better of the first half, with Bennacer twice shooting over, but after the break Preston looked more confident, with Kean Bryan heading just over on 48 and Steve Michealis shooting wide on 55. Both sides traded blows, as Vanzie then shot wide from Michealis' pass, before Ben Close headed wide on 69 from Michael Hefele's free kick. A glorious first touch to bring down a 40 yard pass then saw Stephy Mavididi create a chance for himself, only for the finish to prove lacking, whilst Mavididi would shoot wide in stoppage time as the visitors finished strongly. For Huddersfield it was a case of what might of been - early pressure and possession counting for little come the final whistle - whilst Preston will need to see more from their forwards in the playoffs.

Huddersfield; Vigouroux, Baldock, Stankovic, Hefele, Fryers, Close (Gyaki 76), Bennacer (Okoro 62), Murphy (Kinsella 62), Hunter, Dilrosun, Watt

Unused; Schofield, Barker, Wilson, Hodgkinson

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan, Burgess, Hughes, Michealis (Mavididi 81), Vanzie

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Huddlestone, Coughlan, Al-Yazeedi, Smith

Referee; C Pawson - Attendance; 22,143

An element of frustration would have been plain to see for any observer to the away dressing room at the John Smith's stadium, but Fairway felt that his side had performed reasonably against a team who liked to keep the ball, and reminded his players that automatic promotion would have always been a big ask. As it happened, Tammy Abraham's late winner for Sheffield Wednesday made the draw a moot point, as Wednesday moved four points clear of Preston, meaning only third placed Sunderland could now catch them, with Wednesday facing a tough trip to seventh placed Ipswich on the final day, whilst Sunderland would also face a challenging away game, at eighth placed Fulham . At the bottom, relegation had been confirmed for both Cambridge United and Bristol City , with Rico Henry advising Fairway that, whatever happened in the summer, he now saw his future away from Ashton Gate. Results elsewhere would also see Preston all but assured of fourth place, with Middlesbrough needing a highly unlikely eleven goal swing to move above North End on goal difference. Fourth would equal Preston's highest league finish in over 20 years, with Billy Davies leading Preston to fourth - and, Fairway noted, a playoff final defeat to Leeds United - back in 2005/06. 

Elsewhere, the big news of the weekend in The Championship came from Birmingham City , as Dave Byrne stepped down as interim manager to be replaced by the slightly surprising choice of Chris Adam , previously assistant manager at Dagenham & Redbridge with some unkind bookmakers immediately installing Adam as the 'favourite' in the, distasteful to Fairway's eyes, 'sack race' betting for 2022/23. The manager himself had sent Adam a message of congratulations, as he usually did, before watching the Under 18's demolish Southport 7-1 away from home in a friendly, with Eddie Ryder scoring before Alex Lane blasted four and Michael Bywater bagged a brace in a more than convincing victory. 

The following day many of the same players would face a far stiffer test, with the Under 23 Playoff Semi Final against Burnley , where a healthy crowd for a second string game of 706 saw young Jonathan Mooney put through his own net for the only goal of the game in the 79th minute to hand Burnley victory, and a place in the final against Crystal Palace . Whilst obviously disappointed, Duncan Shearer praised his players after the game, telling them that they could be very proud of their achievements over the season, with many players clearly growing over the season. More pleasingly, Monday would also see the return to training and fitness of Daniel Johnson , back after a shorter than anticipated absence with strained neck muscles, with Fairway delighted to have the Jamaican international fit and available for the final game of the season and the playoff games.

By the end of the week, there had been no further injury concerns, and Fairway was able to name his squad for the final day visit of Barnsley on Sunday, making one change, with Daniel Johnson handed a space on the bench at the expense of Tom Coughlan . It would be on Saturday when Fairway travelled with the squad for the final Under 18's game of the season that it really hit home how close to the end of an exciting campaign Preston were - a 3-2 win for Jordan Sharvin's side confirming second place for the Under 18's, with Alex Lane scoring his 11th goal of the season in his final year at that level, and Michael Bywater and Alan McManus also on the scoresheet. McManus would be one of three in the side who Fairway would have to talk to in the coming week, out of contract at the end of the season, alongside Dave Byrne and Andy Sykes , who had been sent out on loan to Bromley . There would also be four of the Under 23 squad in similar circumstances, with the out on loan trio of Richard Macrae, Graham Hargreaves, Marvin Buchanan and Rob Taylor all sweating on their futures.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Sunday 8th May 2022

Preston North End 2 - Barnsley 1
Barnsley manager David Wilson praised his side for their late season recovery from mid table to finish 10th and told BBC Radio Sheffield that his side had 'foundations in place for a strong season' next year. On a damp and dreary afternoon at Deepdale however it was Preston who came away with the points, the hosts starting strongly with Marnick Vermilj close from the angle before Chris Maxwell made a fine save to deny Steve Michealis on 15. After putting on some pressure, North End eventually took the lead on 43, with Kean Bryan's pass finding Rico Vanzie, who flicked on for strike partner Steve Michealis to rifle home an unstoppable effort into the top corner from just inside the box. 

Preston, for the most part, looked comfortable despite the narrow lead, with Sam Bowles heading over on 49 before Cameron Dawson saved well from one-time Preston target Scott Maxwell. The loanee from Stoke has had an impressive first season in English football, and it remains to be seen if he will be sent out on loan again next season, but here he linked up well with Andereas Pereira, with most of Barnsley's good football coming down the left hand side. Preston, by contrast, were limited with their chances created, but seemed content to sit deeper, allowing Barnsley to come onto them before breaking, and on 68 added a second, when Rico Henry's corner was only partially cleared before Nicky Hughes played in Steve Michealis for his second of the afternoon. Barnsley struck back almost immediately - sub Michael Folivi running on to score with a fine finish on 70 after Hiram Boateng had split the Preston defence. Manager Fairway urged concentration, and after a scare when Folivi saw a shot turned away by Dawson and Rolando Aarons hit the crossbar with a volley, Preston complied, closing the game out in a solid if unspectacular fashion to finish the season on a high ahead of their playoff semi finals against Middlesbrough.

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan, Burgess (Johnson 64), Hughes, Michealis, Vanzie (Al-Yazeedi 64)

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Huddlestone, Smith, Mavididi

Barnsley; C Maxwell, Richards, Roberts (Blackwell 70), Baker, Egbo, Aarons, Davies, Boateng, Pereira, Bishop (Scowen 45), S Maxwell (Folivi 61)

Unused; Gogic, Winnall, Sears, Friend

Referee; M Dean - Attendance; 18,971

With fourth place already assured heading into the game, Fairway was pleased his side had kept their concentration levels high and had been able to see off a determined late fightback to secure the victory. With media interest picking up throughout the week, Fairway was glad of the opportunity for a break on Tuesday, as he met his scouting team to discuss summer targets. There would also be some news on the future of one of their number, as Laurence McCormick advised Fairway that a business opportunity in his native Northern Ireland had come up, and that he intended to step back into the Amateur game once settled at the end of his contract in June. 

Fairway was clear that the press would have no access to his players during the week leading up to the first leg, with the manager clear that their focus needed to be on preparation for the trip to The Riverside Stadium rather than any thoughts of what lay beyond should they be successful. It was somewhat fortunate then that an absorbing title race took another twist on Wednesday evening, when Chelsea won their penultimate game 2-0 to set up a three-way shootout for the title on the final day. Manchester City would go into the weekend in the box seat, sitting a point ahead of their rivals Manchester United and Chelsea, but knew that they still needed to overcome sixth placed West Ham to be crowned champions. Down the road at Old Trafford, Manchester United would have to win the title the hard way, hoping their 'noisy neighbours' slipped up in London whilst also overcoming an Arsenal defence who had conceded just 28 all season, and in Ederson possessed a 'keeper almost nailed on for the Premier League's 'Golden Glove' award for the top netminder of the season. For Chelsea , on paper, their final day game would be the easiest, against relegated Everton , but with speculation surrounding the future of Antonio Conte , would have to keep their concentration levels up as well as hoping that City fell at the final hurdle. At the bottom, there would also be a nervy day for fans of Cardiff City and Brighton & Hove Albion - Cardiff hosting Newcastle United , but four behind on goal difference, whilst Brighton would go to bottom of the pile Wolves needing either a win or to better Cardiff's result to secure safety and avoid an instant return to the second tier.

Wednesday would also see preliminary squads for the World Cup being announced, with Preston's two contenders, Steve Michealis and Daniel Johnson both being included for Australia and Jamaica respectively. For England there were a few surprises, with Chelsea's 18-goal Rob Noble and Liverpool's experienced former England skipper Jordan Henderson missing out, with no less than five uncapped players in the provisional party - Goalkeepers Joe Wildsmith and Harry Lewis , Watford defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson , Everton's loan striker from Chelsea, Louis Webber and Andy Morning , a midfielder who had spent the season in Scotland with Celtic from Manchester City. 

As his side made their way eastwards, Fairway informed Daniel Johnson that he would start on Friday evening, with Jamie Burgess dropping back to the bench in the only change. 

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Friday 13th May 2022

Middlesbrough 0 - Preston North End 2

A sellout crowd at The Riverside saw Middlesbrough fail to take advantage of their home leg in this playoff Semi Final as Preston survived early pressure to take a two goal advantage back to Deepdale for the second leg. The hosts made the early running, with Gustav Engvall denied by the woodwork on 7 as Preston struggled out of the blocks, and Adam Reach putting a free kick over the top on 21. As the first half went on however Preston found their feet, with Daniel Johnson's effort from range gathered by Neto on 34 before Rico Vanzie hooked over when well placed three minutes later. 

Preston continued to look the brighter of the two sides as the second half begun, but wasted a glorious opportunity when Steve Michealis fired into the side netting on 51. It was however the Australian's tenacity that played a big part in the opening goal - chasing down what looked like a lost cause to just about keep the ball in play wide on the right, before putting in a deep cross for Rico Vanzie to steal in and tap home at the far post. As Fairway urged his side to slow the play, Middlesbrough threw men forward, with veteran defender Tom Clarke oozing calmness to chest down a cross inside his own box and play the ball to safety. Tom Smith would bend one from range which Cameron Dawson held, but increasingly it was Preston who seemed more dangerous, and after seeing a goal ruled out for an offside flag, Rico Vanzie was able to celebrate his second of the night against his former side from Kean Bryan's pass on 77. Whilst Preston signalled their intent to see the game out with the defensive changes of Tom Huddlestone to replace Bryan and Adam Smith coming on for a tiring Rico Henry, Middlesbrough suffered another blow when Willyan pulled up late on, finishing the game with ten men and now looking like they have a mountain to climb in the second leg on Monday.

Middlesbrough; Neto, Bedeau, Quinn, Cooper (John 65), Gomez, Willyan, Chappell (Ramirez 77), Smith, Reach, Clough (Bamford 51), Engvall

Unused; Malone, Watson, Jakupovic, Marshall

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj (Burgess 72), Henry (Smith 78), Bryan (Huddlestone 78), Johnson, Hughes, Michealis, Vanzie

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Al-Yazeedi, Mavididi

Referee; T Robinson - Attendance; 34,746

Whilst the players were reminded that the job was only half done, Fairway couldn't resist a smile to himself as he turned the key to his door in the early hours of Saturday morning, contentedly pouring himself a large bourbon in celebration at a truly professional job by his players before heading for bed. The following day would be a family one, with some much needed time with his wife and children, although he did settle down for a couple of hours to watch the second Semi Final, in which Brentford took the advantage, Hachim Mastour scoring twice in a 2-0 win against Sunderland . Should the ties stay the same, Fairway knew, the stage would be set for a clash between Preston and one of their own, Alan Browne - just another side-story in what would undoubtedly be a tense affair all round.

If Saturday was the day for family, Sunday would be the day for football, with Fairway at Deepdale to deal with another press conference before a barbecue at the Morrison household allowed the wives to chat, the kids to play and the husbands to watch the developing final day of the Premier League season. The trophy would go to Manchester City , who beat West Ham 2-1 thanks to league top scorer Robert Lewandowski and English international Eric Dier , meaning that Manchester United's 3-0 win over Arsenal and Chelsea's 1-0 victory at Everton would be in vain. City could clinch the domestic treble the following week, with an FA Cup final against Chelsea to come and the League Cup already secure - and still had the Champions League final against Arsenal to come to boot. At the bottom, Fairway was delighted to see that Brighton just about held on to their Premier League status, with Manuel Pucciarelli equalising Jon Daoi Bodvarsson's early goal for Wolves in a 1-1 draw, as an Ayoze Pérez brace broke Cardiff hearts in an ill-tempered 2-2 draw in Wales, with the Seagulls staying up on goal difference.

By Monday however there was only one focus, with the hottest ticket in town a place at the final match of the season at Deepdale. With no injury concerns, Fairway named an unchanged side for the game, urging his players to go out and finish the job in front of their adoring faithful.

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Looks like one foot in the final! Your match report style is one of the smoothest I've read - it could genuinely be an abridged newspaper clipping - and it's good to read of steady progress with one of the less fashionable sides out there. Here's hoping for play-off glory and having to adapt to the Premier League, but I'll be following regardless!

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10 hours ago, EvilDave said:

Looks like one foot in the final! Your match report style is one of the smoothest I've read - it could genuinely be an abridged newspaper clipping - and it's good to read of steady progress with one of the less fashionable sides out there. Here's hoping for play-off glory and having to adapt to the Premier League, but I'll be following regardless!

Thanks ED :) - the match reports are something I enjoy doing in particular. Good to have you along for the ride!

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Friday 13th May 2022

Preston North End 2 - Middlesbrough 1
Preston North End Win 4-1 on Aggregate

Unchanged Preston headed into the game against Sean Dyche's 'Boro in high spirits following the 2-0 lead from the first leg, and safely saw off a barrage of shots from the visitors to reach their first Playoff Final since the 2005/06 season. A quiet opening period with little of note to report would be lit up on 25 when Preston all but assured progression with Rico Vanzie's third goal against his former club over the two legs, as the 21 year old was given the freedom of the area thanks to some lax marking to turn home the superb Rico Henry's cross, but Boro had chances to level before the interval when Cameron Dawson saved well from Kelechi Chijioke and Tom Smith's snap-shot flew wide of the upright.

Fairway withdrew a tired-looking Daniel Johnson at the interval for Jamie Burgess, with the former Celtic midfielder working hard in midfield as Middlesbrough pushed. Preston too had their chances, with Sam Bowles heading into the side netting on 49, and on 57, the proverbial cake was iced, when Nicky Hughes poked Henry's low cross underneath the diving Neto to spark jubilant scenes amongst the home supporters. Middlesbrough went for broke, peppering Dawson's goal with efforts from distance, but despite Willyan seeing an effort tipped over and Adam Reach hitting the bar, only Patrick Bamford would beat the 'keeper, with a fine finish after Preston's defence paused, anticipating an offside flag which never came. Preston could have added a third on the day late on, with Hughes inches wide with a header and Neto holding from sub Stephy Mavididi, but as the underdog story goes on, in this part of Lancashire there is a genuine sense of belief that Preston can return to the top table for the first time since the 1960's.

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan (Huddlestone 79), Johnson (Burgess 45), Hughes, Michealis (Mavididi 66), Vanzie

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Al-Yazeedi, Mavididi

Middlesbrough; Neto, Bedeau, Quinn, Chijioke, Gomez, Willyan, Chappell (Ramirez 63), Smith, Reach, Jakupovic (Bamford 63), Engvall (Clough 57)

Unused; Malone, Watson, Cooper, Marshall

Referee; D Bond - Attendance; 23,404

With the players granted a deserved day off on Tuesday, Fairway used his media contacts to obtain two passes for the second leg of the other Semi Final, in which Jerry Mbakogu scored the only goal for Sunderland , but Brentford otherwise held the line, limiting the Mackems to a 1-0 victory to ensure that it would be Preston v Brentford at Wembley on Saturday 28th May for a place in the Premier League.

Whilst the eleven day gap before the game did not bother the manager, there would be changes to training, with Fairway keen that his players did not risk injury, but still maintained their competitive edge plenty of skills-based drills and contests replacing some of the gym and weights work. There would also be plenty of scout reports to look over and some admin to undertake, with several players needing to know their futures. Sadly, on the latter front it would be bad news for most, as Fairway revealed to Marvin Buchanan, Graham Hargreaves, Richard Macrae, Rob Taylor, Dave Byrne and Andy Sykes that there would be no deal - but for Alan McManus , a player who still had another season of Under 18's football to develop and who had already had a taste of first team football, there would be an additional year.

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Saturday's FA Cup Final gave Fairway a chance to anticipate what awaited for his side at Wembley in a week's time, taking it all in with his family as a guest of the Lancashire FA, and he saw a classic game, with Rob Noble , perhaps understandably in the circumstances surrounding his surprise omission from the World Cup squad offering a handshake but little else to Gareth Southgate as the England manager was introduced to the players before kickoff. Noble's response though was stunning - a hattrick, with two goals in extra time, to deliver the Cup for Chelsea, who eventually won 3-2 after Manchester City had led in normal time and then again when the sides could not be separated at the end of 90 minutes.

Whilst pundits and supporters alike debated Noble's exclusion, Fairway returned northwards, pleased to find out that Alan McManus had signed his contract before he returned to work on Monday morning. Monday would also see the naming of the final World Cup squads, with England culling seven, including most of the uncapped players, but retaining the two uncapped goalkeepers in backup to Jack Butland with both Harry Lewis and Joe Wildsmith earning a spot on the plane to China, as well as Cameron Borthwick-Jackson , who would edge out Nathaniel Clyne for a defensive berth. Daniel Johnson and Steve Michealis would both survive the nerve wracking time for any international player, whilst former Preston goalkeeper Chris Maxwell , now with Barnsley , made the Wales final 23, delighting goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly who had been cited by Maxwell in an interview as having a big impact on his development.

For Chairman Andy Lamb the wait for the game was just as torturous - manager and Chairman had agreed not to discuss any plans for the season, or transfer budgets, until they knew where they stood, with Lamb only able to offer his manager and players his moral support whilst reassuring them that, either way, he was immensely proud as both a director and supporter of what they had achieved over the course of the season.

Friday would be virtually a bank holiday in Preston as what seemed like half the city came out to see the players off from Deepdale - souvenirs of all types on sale in just about every shop and pub as people came together to dare to dream that top flight football was just around the corner. Fairway continued to keep his players away from the press, allowing only his two most experienced players, midfielder Tom Huddlestone and club captain Tom Clarke to speak to the Sky TV Cameras as part of the buildup programme for the game. Clarke would keep his place, and though the late return to training of Travis Bartholomew gave him another option, Fairway would also keep faith with those who had done the job in the Semi Final, naming his third unchanged side in succession early on Saturday afternoon. As the players entered the tunnel, the final words were left to the manager. "Go out there and do it for yourselves, for this club, for these supporters. You know what's at stake, you know the rewards, and you know you all deserve it. Go and achieve it"

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 28th May 2022

Preston North End 2 - Brentford 1

As Wembley showpiece finals go, this was not a classic, however try telling that to the Preston North End supporters who saw their side return to the top division for the first time since the heady days of the early 1960's. Nerves were evident from both sides in a sluggish opening, with Brentford coming closest to the opening goal when Cameron Dawson turned away Colm Smith's powerful drive on 7 before Hachim Mastour shot wide from the edge of the box on 12. Preston though would open the scoring on 31 - Nicky Hughes collecting from Alan Browne's weak header to square for Daniel Johnson to drive optimistically goalwards. The effort had swerve, but stayed low, and although 'keeper Lee Nicholls was slightly unsighted, he should have perhaps done better as the ball brushed his gloves before nestling in the bottom corner of the net. Whilst Preston's players celebrated, their manager remained stoic on the sidelines, calling for his side to keep their concentration levels up, although Fairway was seen to raise his arms in expectation as Nicky Hughes' free kick whistled just past the woodwork on 36. Brentford had offered little going forward since their early chances, but on 39 could have levelled - Scott Wharton stooping to head just wide from Salim Khelifi's free kick. 

They would remain behind heading into the interval, with Preston's narrow advantage almost doubled soon after the break when Johnson almost netted his second with a free kick that just grazed the crossbar after Steve Michealis had been tripped by Ezri Konsa. Johnson would see another effort from distance tipped wide on 62, but a minute later, Brentford drew level - the Bees breaking quickly with Mastour playing a delightful ball over the top from Reece James' clearance to Colm Smith , who got the run on his marker before shooting low past the advancing Dawson and into the corner. After spending much of the game as the noisier set of supporters, the Preston fans were stunned, and indeed both teams would resort to cagey, containing football with few gambles taken. It would be Preston who decided to up the ante late on, and, after seeing Lee Nicholls make two fine saves within 90 seconds, would be rewarded on 79 - Nicky Hughes playing an optimistic ball between the advanced Brentford back line for Steve Michealis to run onto. The Australian international, who will go to the World Cup with his nation, took two touches to bring the ball down, and with Nicholls rapidly advancing, initially appeared to have missed his chance to shoot. Instead there would be a half-chipped, half prodded effort, which bounced first inches after passing the outstretched palms of the goalkeeper, before bouncing once more and, after an agonising few seconds for the North End support, rolled in off the right-hand upright. Brentford now had to respond, with sub Cauley Woodrow winning a corner almost straight from the restart, only for Smith to shoot powerfully over. Preston could have added a third, with the jet-heeled Stephy Mavididi running onto Johnson's ball, but only able to steer wide, whilst in injury time Adam Frizzell would see a header dip agonisingly over for Brentford, before Dawson just about clung onto Frizzell's drive with the last kick of the game. As the 'keeper pumped the ball long, referee Atwell blew to signal a conclusion - and with it, confirmed Preston's promotion, which had looked a most unlikely story in August, under a manager who has now delivered an incredible four promotions for three different clubs in just six seasons of management. 

When asked after the game if Preston could compete at the top level, a delighted Chairman Andy Lamb spoke for many when telling a BBC Reporter; "That's for us to ensure over the summer. For now, just enjoy this moment"

Brentford; Nicholls, Stephens, Konsa, Wharton, R James, Macleod, Browne, Khelifi (Frizzell 63), Mastour (Woodrow 75), D James (Obita 61), Smith

Unused; Bettinelli, Vatajelu, Roberts, Dunk

Preston; Dawson, Clarke (c), Bowles, Burn, Vermilj, Henry, Bryan (Burgess 89), Johnson (Huddlestone 89), Hughes, Michealis, Vanzie (Mavididi 77)

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Al-Yazeedi, Smith

Referee; S Attwell - Attendance; 87,995

The quiet ones were loud and the loud ones off the scale, but as he drank champagne with his Chairman, Players and backroom staff in the Wembley changing rooms, Fairway only had thoughts of one thing - getting back to his most ardent supporters, his wife and kids. After what seemed like endless interviews, photos and selfies, and with the playoff trophy safely stored on the coach, the Preston squad headed back northwards as Premier League players. More alcohol would follow, as a quiet pub that had been scouted out on the way down by the Chairman's PA, Hayley, became Preston's base for the evening to watch the Champions League final, with Manchester City putting Wembley heartbreak behind them in Marseille to beat Arsenal 2-1 after Robert Lewandowski and Kelechi Iheanacho struck in the second half to cancel out Romelu Lukaku's goal on the stroke of half time. Whilst the players were itching to get away for the summer, with Steve Michealis and Daniel Johnson China-bound, there would be two more days of light training before the summer break officially began, as well as the now ubiquitous open top bus parade through the City streets put on by the local authority. 

As the goalscorers at Wembley, Michealis and Johnson shared top billing and the front of the bus, before Fairway wished them both the best of luck at the World Cup, telling them he would be watching with interest. For the manager, after the parade - and the Championship Manager of the Year trophy - there would be lots more meetings as Fairway and his assistant Mark Morrison were frequently called into meetings.

The news was good - spectacularly good - with Fairway delighted to hear from Lamb and Steve Osman that many upgrades had been authorised, including Undersoil Heating, to be fitted to Deepdale over the summer, and a £25 million warchest with which to boost the squad. The previously authorised upgrades to the training facilities for the senior team would be joined by further upgrades to the youth academy, with Fairway also informed that, at his request, the Junior Coaching budget would increase further still. The wage budget would also be substantially increased, with Fairway again given reign to shuffle funds between transfers and wages as he saw fit. With the crowds still lining the streets, Fairway made the first move, putting in a £2 million approach to Bristol City to make the transfer of Rico Henry a permanent one. 

As a few sore heads remained amongst those who trooped into training on Monday, Fairway was able to reveal his final surprise - the 2 extra days training had been a ruse, and, after a short meeting in which he told the players that their achievements would give them all a chance to impress in the top flight in 2022/23, with some additions expected, he sent them on their way to enjoy their summer, telling them that Preseason training would begin on the fourth of July, giving five weeks ahead of the new campaign. 

Less than 12 hours after Preston's offer was formally accepted, Rico Henry became the first of what Fairway suspected - and hoped - would prove several new additions, taking just 45 minutes to agree personal terms on a deal which would officially go through when the domestic transfer window reopened on the 9th of June. The fee represented a spectacular loss for Bristol City, who had paid £4 million when, as a struggling Premier League club, the took a gamble on bringing Henry to Ashton Gate from Brentford , but Fairway felt it was an absolute steal, especially given Henry's excellent performances for Preston over the course of his loan season at Deepdale.

With the World Cup opening in ten days time, Fairway arranged for scout Bobby Dickson to travel to China for the tournement, tasked with spotting anyone who he felt could not only do a job for Preston, but who would also be available for a reasonable price. Whilst the warmup games had already begun, with England securing a 4-1 victory over Kuwait thanks to an early goal from Dele Alli and then further strikes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kane Wilson and captain Harry Kane , Fairway was more pleased to hear that Steve Michealis had brought his international goal tally to 7 in 13 appearances for Australia , scoring the first in a 2-0 win over minnows Krygyzstan in Bishkek. Daniel Johnson , meanwhile, managed an assist after coming off the bench in Jamaica's 5-1 demolition of the Cayman Islands , whilst Fairway spent much of the following day tied up in negotiations with Cameron Dawson and his agent, with the goalkeeper asking for a contract that reflected his performances and worth to the club. Fairway was happy to agree, feeling that Dawson, who actually beat the World Cup-bound Joe Wildsmith of Sheffield Wednesday in clean sheets kept over the course of the season, had been one of his most important signings since arriving in Lancashire.

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Cameron Dawson would pop in to sign his new contract on Saturday morning, whilst Fairway was away for a long weekend with the family. Whilst he tried to avoid football whilst away, even Mrs Fairway realised that this summer would be a little different, and allowed her husband to take and receive calls where unavoidable. He also, thanks to a conveniently positioned TV, was able to catch at least a glimpse of England's final warmup game for the World Cup , a frustrating 1-1 draw at Wembley against Columbia with Harry Kane scoring in the second half after William Martán had put the South Americans ahead. The text from Mark Morrison on Sunday morning revealed contrasting fortunes for Preston's internationals, with Abdulla Al-Yazeedi seeing his Qatar side thrashed 5-1 by Romania , whilst Daniel Johnson scored Jamiacia's only goal in a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay , and Steve Michealis endured a goalless draw for Australia against Iraq .

Back at his desk on Tuesday morning, with a plethora of scouting reports to go through, Fairway acted decisively. One of his key targets for the summer would be a central defender, and after Aston Villa accepted a bid of £3.2 million - enough to break Preston's transfer record for the second time under his stewardship - Ro-Shaun Williams arrived just after lunchtime for talks. Fairway was immediately impressed with the tall defender. whilst still a teenager, Williams took the brave but sensible decision to leave Old Trafford from Manchester United for first team football at Aston Villa , quickly becoming an important player. Still 23, with England Under 19 experience, the reports - and Fairway's knowledge from past contests - proved that the defender had pace to burn, key at the top level, but also the upper body strength to be able to hold off attackers. Whilst Williams seemed impressed with the ground and Andy Lamb's recent investments in upgrading the facilities, Fairway found his agent's wage demands a little on the high side. Fortunately, the player himself was more reasonable and easier to talk to, and after selling a vision of the club as a progressive team where young players would be promoted, the manager hoped he had done enough.

With Williams considering the approach, Nigel Keady sent through a report, marking it as highest priority. Fairway was intrigued to see it was for another central defender, 18 year old Frenchman Olivier Lecointe , currently starring in the French Youth Invitational Under 20's tournament. At 16, Lecointe had been signed by Sochaux from Lille for an enormous fee of £4.1 Million before he had even made his senior debut, and instantly became a regular, with an impressive career record of over 60 senior games despite his tender years. At international level he had been a hit too, with a goal on his Under 21 debut for France , and, having quickly watched some videos, Fairway could see the player would potentially be a Preston star for years to come. The sticking point however would be the fee - with Sochaux unwilling to sell, Fairway would have to trigger the £6.25 Million release clause in Lecointe's contract - something that, having just broken the club transfer record once on a central defender, he would have to think carefully about doing for the second time.

As the domestic window opened on Wednesday, Rico Henry made his move official, and by late morning, Ro-Shaun Williams had also agreed terms to become - for the moment at least - Preston's record signing and highest paid player. The duo would be unveiled on Friday, as Fairway hosted a press conference to introduce his new arrivals, whilst Stevenage Borough were also in touch in order to take Will Tuck on loan for the season. A successful year at Hibernian had done the young defender the world of good, and, had Preston not gone up, Fairway was planning to give Tuck game time, but with their rather unexpected promotion, the local lad would have to remain patient, with Fairway feeling that instead regular football for the League One side would do him good.

As Tuck departed Easter Road, another Preston player would check in at the Scottish Premier League side, with a £400,000 offer for winger Martyn Biggs accepted on Friday afternoon. Whilst Biggs headed to discuss terms, Wales got the World Cup underway with a 1-0 victory over hosts China , with Ben Woodburn scoring the only goal of the game. In the evening, with Aston Villa having matched Hibs' bid for Biggs, and seen Preston accept their offer, the World Cup continued, with Jamaica seeing off Columbia 2-0 in a game which saw Daniel Johnson play 76 minutes.

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Back to where they belong, I'm sure with your managerial skills you'll be able to key them up there

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9 hours ago, mark wilson27 said:

Back to where they belong, I'm sure with your managerial skills you'll be able to key them up there

Cheers Mark :) - all came together at the right time. Few nervy moments in the run in but we were superb in the playoffs.

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With another 'high priority' report receiving Fairway's attention on Saturday morning, he missed Thomas Lemar's opener for France in a 3-0 win against Peru , and elected not to push his luck by watching unfancied New Zealand , who went down 3-0 to Italy . In the evening though football was once again on the TV in the Fairway household, as Mexico played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with Holland , whilst the following day, England got their tournament underway with an uninspiring 1-1 draw against Senegal , Mamadou Doucouré putting through his own net just before half time before a player well known to domestic audiences from spells at Southampton and Liverpool before his £44 million move to Real Madrid , Sadio Mané , levelled on 55. The result was greeted with much derision, especially as Group D favourites Brazil would thump Iran 5-0 at teatime. Spain would also cruise through their opening game, thrashing Egypt 4-0 with all four goals coming in the course of twenty first half minutes.

Both Martyn Biggs and Will Tuck were still mulling over their respective offers when Switzerland beat Costa Rica 2-0 in the early game on Monday, whilst Fairway would also accept no less than nine offers to take young midfielder James Thomas , another who Fairway felt had a future at Deepdale but was not quite ready, out on loan for the season. The other games of the day in China would see an impressive Germany cruise past Algeria 3-0 in Group E, whilst Pablo Dybala , a rumoured target for Manchester United , scored the only goal as Argentina finished with ten men in a 1-0 win against debutants Georgia .

On Tuesday the focus would be on Steve Michealis and Australia , as they won their game against another side making their World Cup bow, Guinea-Bissau , with the Preston man playing second fiddle to strike partner Jamie Maclaren who scored twice in a comfortable victory. Elsewhere, victories for Portugal - 2-0 against South Korea , and Uruguay , who edged out Poland 3-2, meant that the first round of fixtures were almost complete, with just Group H to go.

That would kick off on Wednesday, after Jamaica had dealt Wales a blow, with Daniel Johnson an unused sub in a 4-2 win for the Reggae Boyz. With Group H earmarked as one of the most even of the whole tournament, few would have been surprised to see a 1-1 draw in both games, Japan holding Romania and Cameroon frustrating Belgium . There would also be news at Deepdale, as Fairway was somewhat shocked to hear from Martyn Biggs that he did not want to leave for either Hibernian or Aston Villa . After a heart to heart with the young winger, Fairway informed Biggs that he was not part of the plans at the club, and that he would accept offers. He was still shocked though when Reading and Ipswich came in almost immediately with offers higher than that - at £750,000 - than he had previously accepted. With both being solid Championship sides, Fairway expected Biggs to opt to remain in England, but would also accept the slightly lower £725,000 offer from Scottish Premier Aberdeen , where the winger had enjoyed a loan spell previously. 

Whilst Biggs had not made his decision by the time that Columbia all but ended hosts China's chances of progression on Thursday evening, Fairway was left wondering if Will Tuck had got the message regarding the interest from Stevenage , as John Collins phoned to chase a decision from the young centre back. Fairway assured Collins that he would try and hurry things along, as he was more than happy for Tuck to go to the Lamex Stadium for the season, whilst the two enjoyed a few minutes chatting over the other results, with Peru going down 4-0 to Mexico and France scoring twice in two minutes late on through Anthony Martial to leave Holland perilously close to a Group Stage exit.

Tuck finally made up his mind on Friday, agreeing to the loan deal which would see Stevenage cover his wages, but the big news of the day would come from Shenzen, where England finally put in a performance to match the expectations of their supporters, with a 7-0 thrashing of Iran thanks to a Will Hughes brace, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw, Tosin Adarabioyo, Harry Kane and an own goal from the unfortunate Hamed Lotfi . Remarkably, it would not be the only game in which one side his seven on the day, as Egypt smashed New Zealand 7-1 in front of over 80,000 in Guangzhou, with 21-year old striker Hossam Awad of Brazilian outfit Corinthians staking an early claim for the Golden Boot with four goals in the comprehensive victory. Elsewhere, the much-anticipated game between Italy and Spain saw Italy record a 3-1 win, with Alvaro Morata getting the consolation after goals from Giuseppe Pezzella and two from 19 year old wonderkid Alessandro Angeloni had given Italy a comfortable 3-0 lead into half time.

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I've been popping in and out of this story. As I would expect from you, it's a joy to read.

Anyway, I have to offer my (somewhat belated) congratulations on promotion. It's always nice to see the inaugural league champions back in the top division. Now keep them there.

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Cheers! - I think promotion (a year ahead of where I planned to be!) was the easy part...!

After a breathless week, Fairway would see little rest at the weekend either, with Huddersfield joining the potential suitors for Martyn Biggs , but seeing their offer, loaded with clauses but with a low initial fee, rejected by Preston in the early afternoon.  With James Thomas choosing Falkirk as his destination from the season on Saturday afternoon, Fairway contentedly sat down to watch Switzerland take on Algeria pleased with the way things were going - but still with plenty of scouting reports to go through. He did not expect to see the Swiss put eight past Algeria with no reply, although the 5-1 victory for Germany against Costa Rica came as less of a shock. In the evening, holders Brazil ensured their progression before their final game, with a comfortable 4-1 win over Senegal .

Sunday would see Steve Michealis left on the bench as Jamie Maclaren again starred for Australia in a 2-0 victory over Georgia , whilst veteran Lionel Messi took his international tally to 77 with a brace as Argentina beat Guinea-Bissau 3-0. Another star in what would most likely be his final tournament scored in the late game, but for Robert Lewandowski it would only be a personal boost, as Poland wilted in the 32 degree heat of Nanning, going down to an injury time André Silva goal as Portugal recorded a 2-1 victory after Lewandowski had put the Eastern Europeans ahead.

The following day would see a couple of rather dull 1-0 wins for Belgium and Romania against Japan and Cameroon respectively, whilst Norwich City would see an offer accepted for Martyn Biggs on Tuesday morning, as Fairway sat down for a meeting with Leon Hunter and Mark Morrison to discuss further summer business. All were agreed that Preston needed to bolster their attacking options, with additional midfield cover also required - but any hopes of a move for Olivier Lecointe would be dashed when the news came through that whilst Preston deliberated, Swansea City had acted, agreeing a fee with Sochaux to bring the undoubtedly highly talented teenager to the Premier League. With that in mind, as he watched Daniel Johnson return to the starting eleven as Jamaica went through to the Second Round of the World Cup despite a 4-2 defeat to hosts China in Group A, Fairway authorised an approach for the other of the potential world superstars to be spotted by his scouting team at the French Youth Invitational , a Ukrainian central midfielder. A fee of £1.6 million for a 19 year old would have, at one time, be felt as a huge gamble, but in the modern game such a fee would hardly raise eyebrows, especially as Fairway felt that Mykola Kolosov could prove a key player in the future. 

Whilst the offer for Kolosov was accepted, Fairway was just as stunned as many others by Peru's 1-0 victory over Holland which sent the Dutch home, whilst France topped Group B after a 4-3 win over Mexico . In Group A's other game, and despite their good start, Wales went out with a whimper, finishing bottom after a humbling 5-0 defeat to Columbia . Kolosov arrived on Wednesday morning, and impressed Fairway by trying a few words of English rather than relying on his agent to translate. It was clear that the teenager wanted to join Preston, with the personal terms proving little in the way of a problem, and the giddy excitement in his eyes as he joined Fairway to watch England beat Brazil 2-0 to top Group D showed that the youngster had an eye for good football, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marcus Rashford both showed blistering pace to put the holders to the sword. Elsewhere, Iran beat Senegal 2-1, whilst Spain and Italy , as expected, qualified from Group C after seeing off New Zealand and Egypt , for whom Hossam Awad scored his fifth of the tournement.

Results on Thursday ensured Preston would have two representatives in the knockout stages, despite Australia being beaten 3-0 by Argentina , as both nations qualified from Group F, with Guinea-Bissau condemning Georgia to finish bottom after a 4-1 victory. Germany would also progress, a 2-1 victory over Switzerland seeing Die Maanschaaft through with Costa Rica's 2-1 win over Algeria seeing the North Africans go home without a point.

With Kolosov still yet to make a decision, the World Cup continued on Friday with a victory for Portugal - 4-2 against Uruguay to ensure they topped Group G, with Son Heung-Min scoring a vital equaliser for South Korea against Poland to confirm their place in the Second Round. For neighbours Japan there would be no such luck, going down 4-3 to Cameroon who qualified on goal difference after Belgium trounced Romania 4-0. 

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Preston matters were highest on Fairway's agenda on Saturday morning as Preston formally became a Premier League club, and to boot, he was able to confirm the Preseason schedule for his side - mostly away, on the account of the summer work at Deepdale, with a trip down the road to Chorley first up, followed by a short tour of Denmark , taking in games against Frem, Hvidovre IF and Aarhus Fremad . There would then be away games at Tranmere Rovers, Accrington Stanley and Colchester United in a testimonial for long-serving defender Tom Eastman as well as Bamber Bridge , before, on Saturday 6th August, the week before the season began, a visit from AJ Auxerre , a side, like Preston, promoted back to the top flight last season in the traditional 'glamour' friendly. Fairway would also learn that his side would start the League season at home - to Stoke City , before making the trip to Anfield the following Saturday. 

What surprised him most however was the TV money - a delighted Andy Lamb informing Fairway that the club would receive over £90 million over the course of the season. Lamb's expectations for Fairway were almost inevitable - battle bravely against relegation. With the World Cup still in full flow, the newspapers had not yet made their preseason predictions, but Fairway fully expected them to suggest that Preston were favourites for the drop, and indeed some keen bookmakers had already listed his side as such. Fairway though chose to ignore them, with two Second Round games to enjoy on Saturday, as Columbia beat Mexico 2-0 , whilst Daniel Johnson saw his tournament come to an end in disappointing fashion as Jamaica were beaten by France 3-0, with the midfielder replaced at half time. 

Two deals would be concluded on Sunday morning, as winger Martyn Biggs moved away from Deepdale to join Reading in a £750,000 switch, whilst 19 year old Mykola Kolosov became Fairway's third signing of the summer, from FC Obolon-Brovar . After spending £1.6 million on one exciting foreign midfielder, Fairway would quickly make it four arrivals with the acquisition of another, Paraguay international Juan Daniel Caballero , a 20 year old from Argentinean side Banfield bolstering a midfield that at times last season had looked somewhat threadbare. By the time England had secured passage to the Quarter Finals thanks to an extra time goal from Southampton prodigy Craig Lewis in a nervy game with Spain went to extra time after Paxti Iribar had cancelled out Tosin Adarabioyo's early header, Fairway had made his fifth capture - hoping that he had solved his striking conundrum with the signing of £1.9 million Scotland international Craig Campbell from Heart of Midlothian . Campbell, 20, had spent just a season at Tynecastle, but had proved a big hit following his switch from Partick Thistle , scoring eleven and making his international debut. Blessed with great technical ability, Fairway hoped that - finally - he had found the ideal partner for Steve Michealis in attack.

Holders Brazil faced Italy in the other game on Sunday, going out of the tournament after Marco Verratti had scored early on from the penalty spot and Alessio Romagnoli scored in the second half to mean that Roberto Firmino's quickfire equaliser had been in vain. It would not be a good couple of days for the South American sides, with Argentina surprisingly beaten 2-1 by Switzerland on Monday, leaving Lionel Messi heartbroken and instantly named as the greatest player never to win the ultimate trophy. Even more surprisingly - and delighting the English tabloids - was the German exit, with Steve Michealis coming on off the bench in a game that saw Jonathan Tah's 16th minute effort cancelled out by goals from Jamie Maclaren and Jimmy Jeggo

With three of the big names now out, the eyes of the world fell on Belgium to see if they would be next, but Romelu Lukaku scored twice as the Belgians eased to a 3-0 win over South Korea . The other game would also go as per expectations, with Portugal beating Cameroon 2-0 in the final game before the three day break ahead of the Quarter Finals. Back at Deepdale and the Springfields training ground, preparation ramped up in anticipation of the imminent return of the playing staff, as Hayley scrambled to book hotels for the new arrivals due when the International transfer window reopened on the First of July. Whilst transfer talk took centre stage - Sampdoria midfielder Adama Traoré the subject of interest from numerous English sides - Fairway enjoyed a restful Thursday ahead of a busy day on Friday.

The first to check in would be Craig Campbell , who had already been back in training for a week with Hearts , bringing Scottish teenager Mark Paterson , the prearranged deal from before Fairway's time, with him. Paterson would go into the Under 23's , and seemed pleased to hear a familiar accent when Duncan Shearer introduced himself. As well as the arrivals - Mykola Kolosov and Juan Daniel Caballero also introduced to their new surroundings - there would be departures, with Graham Hargreaves, Rob Taylor, Richard Macrae, Marvin Buchanan, Dave Byrne and Andy Sykes all leaving the club for the final time following the expiration of their contracts. Scout Lawrence McCormick also bade his farewells, returning to his native Ulster, with Fairway making a mental note to speak to Leon Hunter about a replacement when he next got the chance.

With the World Cup reaching the last eight stage, things were now getting serious, with the early game between France and Italy proving a tight affair that went all the way. Italy , who had to deal with the handicap of playing much of the second half with ten men after the dismissal of Leonardo Bonnuci just before the hour mark, eventually triumphed, beating France 5-4 on spot kicks. In the evening, Columbia once again stunned England by taking the lead, as they had done in the pre-tournament friendly, with Davinson Sánchez of Everton heading home from a corner, but a penalty from Marcus Rashford on 29 levelled things up before, on 87, Demari Gray got away down the left to cross for Andros Townsend to score the winner from close range.

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Whilst celebrations for England were tempered with the weight of expectation of a first World Cup Semi Final since that night in Turin, Australia approached their Quarter final against Belgium in the Beijing 'Birds Nest' with little more than a dream of progression. Their fine tournament would indeed end here, with Steve Michealis coming on as a second half substitute in a 3-0 defeat to Belgium , who were two goals up through Yannick Carrasco and Chancel Mandanda before the Aussies had got out of the starting blocks. They did improve after the break, but Carrasco's second of the night, on 84, proved to be the final nail in the coffin. In the other game Portugal needed extra time to beat Switzerland , with an own goal and Ruí Pedro on the scoresheet, setting up mouthwatering Semi Finals of England against Portugal and Belgium against Italy.

Fairway would also celebrate on Sunday, with his 38th birthday seeing a family meal out, a last chance for the manager to relax before the rigours of preseason. With both Michealis and Daniel Johnson having seen their sides knocked out, it would be a full squad - minus goalkeeper Craig Black , who had Fairway had agreed to loan out to Kilmarnock for the season over the weekend - who reported for the first day at Springfields, although after the usual weight checks and introductions to the new faces, Fairway sent Michealis back home for four days rest, and told the striker that he would be unlikely to be risked in the opening friendly. For the remainder there would be plenty of fitness worked mixed in with small sided games and drills, with Craig Campbell instantly impressing the coaching staff with some excellent ball control and Juan Daniel Caballero showing long shooting ability to rival that of Johnson and Nicky Hughes .

Off the pitch, scouting reports continued to come across Fairway's desk with constant regularity, with Leon Hunter also taking time out to interview Geoff Taylor , formerly Under 23 manager at Rotherham for a Scouting role. Hunter was instantly impressed with the 60 year old's knowledge of the game and eye for youth talent, with a contract offered on Wednesday afternoon. Fairway too spent much of Tuesday in interviews, with promotion meaning that Andy Lamb had authorised additional coaches for all three age groups, and by the end of a busy day, he too had made offers. 

The big event the following day would be in Beijing, with Fairway, like the rest of the country, watching nervously as England went in to their World Cup Semi final against Portugal . An early Ben Wood drive only served to increase the tension, but after Anthony Lopes suffered a nightmare by palming a cross into his own net, England seemed to rest a little easier. Igor Sanches pulled one back after the break, but, with ten minutes remaining that felt like an hour, England scored again, with Craig Lewis the calmest man in the stadium as he slotted home from close range. As the sole Belgian in the squad, Marnick Vermilj was understandably more interested in the second semi, on Wednesday night, but would be disappointed as Italy ran out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Moise Kean and Andrea Belotti , with Bjorn Engels scoring a consolation in injury time.

Whilst the first friendly on Saturday would be a low-key opener against non-league Chorley , Fairway was pleased to see that competition for places was high, and advised his players that, in the early games, there would be plenty of rotation. One though who would not be involved would be Ross Soutar , with the young striker again attracting loan interest, and Fairway happy to accept offers for a player who still had a fair bit of learning to do before he could be realistically considered for a place in the first team squad. Fairway would also welcome three additions to his backroom team on Friday, with Geoff Taylor agreeing to join the ranks of the Scouting team under Leon Hunter , Gary-Matthew O'Toole joining as a specialist Fitness Coach for the Under 18's , and Mark Chamberlain joining his coaching team. 

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The additions would continue on Saturday morning, with Mark Pease joining from Sheffield United in exchange for a £50,000 compensation fee to work as a Fitness Coach with the senior team alongside Tom Little , Pease arriving just in time to travel with the Senior squad for the opening friendly game.



www.pnefc.co.uk - Preseason Friendlies - Saturday 9th July

North End Off To A Flyer

The Lilywhites got Preseason underway this afternoon with a comfortable -victory against National League North Chorley at Victory Park. With a number of new faces on show, it was one of last season's signings, Abdulla Al-Yazeedi , who gave Preston the lead on 6, with a powerful effort to beat 'keeper Parton at his near post from Marnick Vermilj's cross. Juan Daniel Caballero made it two on 16 after a fine pass from Nicky Hughes, but Chorley almost delighted their home supporters on 21 when Jermaine Udamaga thundered a shot against the bar from distance. Preston made it three on 27 when Juan Daniel Cabellero turned in the box to fire home his second of the afternon, with the Paraguay international again close before Stuart Fairway made eleven changes at the interval. North End enjoyed plenty of possession after the break but could not seem to find a final ball, with Chorley defending resolutely in the second half.

Speaking after the game, Stuart Fairway said; "It was a shame we couldn't add to the score after the break, but take nothing away from Chorley, who did well today. I was pleased with the contributions of the new signings, and look forward to seeing us step up a gear on the tour of Denmark next week.

Elsewhere, a young Preston XI went down 1-0 to National League Staines Town in a friendly hosted by the Surrey club to open a new stand at Wheatsheaf Park.

Preston First Half; Dawson, Vermilj, Henry, Burn (c), Bowles, Williams, Bryan, Hughes, Caballero, Campbell, Al-Yazeedi

Preston Second Half; Manjate, Burgess, Smith, Bell, King, Clarke (c), Paterson, Kolosov, Johnson, Vanzie, Lane


The first game of preseason had probably been more comfortable than the score suggested, with Fairway pleased with the performances shown, especially in the first period, with his new faces showing up well. In the evening a tedious Third Placed Playoff game in China saw an Igor Sanches penalty seal a 1-0 victory for Portugal against Belgium , leaving the World Cup with just one game to play - the final.

The tension was palpable, with Fairway relieving his own mixture of excitement and apprehension about the game by combining club work with family time, as Eoin Doyle agreed to return to Deepdale to work as a Coach with the Under 23's , whilst young goalkeeper Billy Morrison , released over the summer by Manchester City , put pen to paper on a two year contract, jumping at the opportunity of a second bite at professional football. Morrison's day however would be tinged with disappointment, as, after a summer which had started with such high hopes, England finally saw their dreams of winning a second World Cup crushed by a rampant Italy , who ran out 4-0 winners to bring a superb tournament to a close. Andrea Belotti scored twice, Danilo Cataldi once whilst for Tosin Adarabioyo , who scored a vital goal in the Second Round win over Spain , there would be an unfortunate own goal in the final. It had been just one game too far for Gareth Southgate's side, with the all-too familiar inquest beginning in the press on Monday morning, although seeing Jack Butland limp out of the warmup had been a cruel blow which could not have been foreseen, with Swansea's Harry Lewis , handed his debut with less than an hours notice between the sticks, unable to do much about any of the Italian goals.

Whilst few would argue that Admir Mehmedi of Switzerland fully deserved his Goal of the Tournement award for a 30 yard screamer against Argentina , The Golden Shoe for top goalscorer would, thanks mostly to a single superb performance, would go to Egypt's Hossam Awad , whilst Marco Verratti of the winners would claim the Golden Ball for the best player. England , despite falling at the final hurdle, would see Adarabioyo pick up a place in the 'Dream Team', with Will Hughes and Jack Butland amongst the substitutes, whilst Columbia striker Cristian Ortíz took the Young Player of the Tournament award, and Belgium's Thiabault Courtois the Yashin Award for best goalkeeper. Fairway, whilst disappointed, couldn't help but marvel at Italy's attacking play however, and, knowing that, to a man, his squad had all watched the game, urged them to play with the freedom of the Azzuri over the season to come. Jetting out to Denmark on Monday morning, Preston settled into their training base before the Tuesday game against Frem , with an evening session on a floodlit artificial surface before the players were allowed to rest overnight.

Edited by displaced_seagull

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www.pnefc.co.uk/LilywhitesInDenmark - Tuesday 12th July

Danish Tour Underway With Win

Steve Michealis came off as a precaution with an early knock as North End's tour of Denmark got underway with a 3-0 victory. Nicky Hughes opened the scoring against hosts Frem with a free kick in the second minute that took a slight deflection on it's way into the net, before substitute Abdulla Al-Yazeedi tapped home from Rico Henry's fine cross on 24. Al-Yazeedi almost made it three before the break, denied by a good save on 36, before Stuart Fairway again made wholesale changes at the interval. Preston continued to make most of the running after the break, with teenager Mark Paterson drawing two fine saves from home 'keeper Lauresen, before Abdulla Al-Yazeedi spun in the box to fire a volley in off the post after a great run and cross from Jamie Burgess. Replacement 'keeper Joaquin Manjate would make a smart stop late on to deny Jeppe Anderson, before Abdulla Al-Yazeedi claimed his hatrick on 86 with a cool finish after Mykola Kolosov had threaded a ball through a packed Frem defence.

Head Physio Matt Jackson confirmed after the game that Michealis had suffered a minor head wound from a high boot, but that there would be no long-term worries with Stuart Fairway confirming that Michealis could play a part in Saturday's second tour game, against Hvidovre IF.

Preston First Half; Dawson, Vermilj, Henry, Burn (c), Bowles, Williams, Bryan, Hughes, Caballero, Campbell, Michealis (Al-Yazeedi 10)

Preston Second Half; Manjate, Burgess, Smith, Bell, King, Clarke (c), Paterson, Kolosov, Johnson, Vanzie, Al-Yazeedi

With Preston winning comfortably, Fairway was delighted with the performance and especially the clinical finishing of Abdulla Al-Yazeedi , who made a real impression on the manager with perhaps his best performance in a Preston shirt. Fairway was also relieved to hear from Matt Jackson that the gash on Steve Michealis' head would not require stitches, and that after 24 hours rest he would be fit enough to resume training and would be able to start on Saturday.

Whilst events in Denmark continued to take up much of his time, Fairway also had an eye on matters at home, and was pleased to hear from Duncan Shearer that Alex Lane had continued his goalscoring form for the Under 23's on Wednesday evening, in a 2-2 friendly draw with Kettering Town . One of last season's crop of Academy graduates, Tim Price , would also be on the scoresheet for the second string who were again bolstered with several stepping up from the Under 18 squad. 

It would be on Thursday however that the manager was at his busiest - starting early by verbally confirming the loan move of Ross Soutar to Scottish Championship outfit St Mirren for the season, but also making Nicky Hughes Preston's third highest paid player, as the Scottish midfielder signed a new four year deal - crucially, removing the Minimum Fee Release clause which was previously inserted. Fairway was delighted with the news, and his day would only get better in the afternoon when he welcomed a trialist to link up with the squad for a three week spell. The fact that Zach Clough was available on a free transfer amazed the Preston manager, with the 27 year old frontman, now coming into the prime of his career, surprisingly not handed an extended contract by Brighton & Hove Albion , who had spent £5.5 million to sign him from Leeds United two summers ago. Clough had hardly been given a chance in the top flight for Albion, with Fairway hoping that the creative forward would be chomping at the bit to prove himself at the top level should he get the opportunity at Deepdale.

Pleasingly for Fairway the Saturday papers had not picked up on Clough's trial spell, although the manager could understand that discussion of Chelsea's £61 million capture of Benfica striker Lautaro Essers was probably more of a draw to the casual reader. Essers had seen a remarkable rise over the past 18 months, going from Paris St Germain's reserves to a loan spell in Russia, where he hit 16 in 30 for CSKA Moscow . That led to Benfica splashing out just over £30 million, where 18 goals in 29 games in his only season in Portugal had prompted Roman Abramovich to get out his chequebook. He would not be the only Argentinian international to arrive in London, with Spurs also splashing out on the consistent, rather than prolific, Mauro Icardi , who had scored between 22 and 10 goals a season for Inter Milan every season dating back to his arrival at the club back in 2013/14. 

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www.pnefc.co.uk/LilywhitesInDenmark - Saturday 16th July

Playoff Heroes Hit Target Again

Summer signing Craig Campbell led the line for Preston alongside a trialist as North End continued the summer tour of Denmark with another victory . Preston twice struck the woodwork inside the opening ten minutes - first Nicky Hughes hitting the bar from a free kick, before Juan Daniel Caballero fired a shot against the post from the edge of the area. Hvidovre 'keeper Olivier Korch led something of a charmed life throughout the first half, making two good saves to deny the trialist whilst Campbell would also volley just wide and Kean Bryan became yet another North End player to be denied by the woodwork. Goalless at the interval, eleven half time changes saw Preston continue as the dominant side after the break, and the early pressure would eventually pay off on 47 when Kolosov found Daniel Johnson for a powerful strike from just inside the area. Kolosov would then tee up Adam Smith with a fine ball to stretch the defence, only for Korch to just get to the ball first from his cross. The second would eventually come on 62, Steve Michealis intercepting a weak backpass to fire home, and this threatened to open the floodgates, with Kolosov, Al-Yazeedi and Johnson all close to adding to Preston's lead. 

Speaking after the game, Stuart Fairway said; "The lads did well today against quite a physical side who are fancied to do well this season. I was pleased with the contributions of the trialist, and with the new lads settling in, I can see us improving with every game. That bonding process is important, and is part of the reason we have come out here, so it is good to see our hard work paying off."

Preston First Half; Dawson, Vermilj, Henry, Burn (c), Bowles, Williams, Bryan, Hughes, Caballero, Campbell, Trialist

Preston Second Half; Manjate, Burgess, Smith, Bell, King (Huddlestone 80), Clarke (c), Paterson, Kolosov, Johnson, Michealis, Al-Yazeedi

Whilst it had not been quite as comprehensive as the other two results, Preston's ball control had been a joy to watch, moving the ball around very nicely to limit Hvidovre to just two shots on goal all afternoon. Reminding his players that he would now start to mix things up a little, and would no longer to be looking to make eleven half time changes, Fairway praised those who had contributed but explained that he also wanted to see more as preseason progressed. With North End set to fly home overnight after the conclusion of Tuesday's game against Amateur side Aarhus Fremad Sunday would be a day of rest, with some sightseeing and bonding sessions, whilst a training session on Monday saw all come through unscathed. 

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www.pnefc.co.uk/LilywhitesInDenmark - Tuesday 19th July

Five Star Preston Conclude Tour With Win

Preston's three match tour of Denmark came to an end this evening with a against Aarhus Fremad. Rico Henry would hit the post in the second minute as North End got off to a strong start, before taking the lead on 18 from the penalty spot, when Craig Campbell dusted himself off to score from 12 yards having been bundled to the floor by defender Jespersen. After Nicky Hughes had seen a shot fly just wide on 27, Preston doubled the lead after a  corner, when Sam Bowles was pushed by Kasper Baun, with Craig Campbell again doing the honours from the resulting penalty. The game continued to see one way traffic, with Hughes crashing a strike from distance against the crossbar, before, on the stroke of half time, Rico Vanzie shot home from the edge of the box to make it three. A handful of changes at half time saw two of the substitutes combining well, when Mykolo Kolosov's cross was nodded on by Juan Daniel Caballero for Jamie Burgess to stab home a fourth, with wider changes coming just after the hour mark as Fairway rotated his squad to the fullest extent. The Danes would then come close to a consolation when Mark Andersen shot wide from the angle, but the final goal of the game would go to Preston in injury time, when Steve Michealis collected Caballero's through ball to round replacement 'keeper Aastrup to add further gloss to an already convincing victory. 

Stuart Fairway told the club website after the game; "It has been a good tour, I am pleased with the camaraderie that is already developing between the new lads and those who have been here a while, and we have seen some very impressive individual performances. I'm not quite convinced that you have seen all of our summer signings as yet, and there is still plenty of time to polish the squad further, but for the moment I am very satisfied with the way our buildup is going."

Preston; Dawson (Manjate 63), Vermilj (Burgess 45), Henry (Smith 63), Burn (c) (Clarke 45), Bowles (King 63), Williams (Bell 63), Bryan (Paterson 63), Hughes (Caballero 45), Kolosov (Johnson 63), Campbell (Michealis 63), Vanzie (Trialist 45)

After arriving back at base in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Fairway gave the squad the remainder of Wednesday off to recover from their exertions abroad, and only put in a couple of hours at his desk himself, meeting for an update with the scouting ream before heading home for some family time. At the meeting Fairway was able to reveal that, whilst in Denmark, he had been contacted by Sebastian Petersen , a charismatic if occasionally slightly unethical agent representing a number of players. The one who Petersen wanted to tout to Fairway, however, would be one who was currently waving the 'have boots, will travel' sign after rejecting a new deal at Brondby . Frederik Holst had been with the club since coming through youth ranks, and, after breaking into the first team at a young age, had almost instantly become a regular, also picking up two caps for Denmark, with his versatility an asset. Capable of playing in midfield or at right back, Holst had offered to pay his own way, with Fairway advising Petersen that, should his client want it, there was a three week trial spell on offer.

The other name discussed would be one that Fairway knew well - Simranjit Thandi . When the 22 year old had still been a teenager, Fairway had tried to sign him on several occasions for Lincoln City , only to be rebuffed by both his club, Leicester City , and the player himself when an offer was eventually accepted, but now with Zinedine Zidane seeing no future for the defender, Fairway was tempted to try again. It was the combined opinion of the scouting team that Thandi, who could play either in the centre or on the right of defence, was not yet ready to feature regularly, but, mindful of the need for cover at the back, Fairway decided an approach would be made, formally putting a £450,000 offer on the table on Thursday afternoon.

Whilst Leicester mulled over the approach - Preston by far the only club in the market for Thandi - transfer activity elsewhere continued apace, with Friday seeing Everton pay out £8 million for Arsenal winger Reiss Nelson in a bid for an instant Premier League return, and Preston's fellow newcomers to the top flight, Sheffield Wednesday , bringing in Grant Ward from Fulham for a £6.5 million fee. Whilst for Preston the deal for Thandi was still in the balance, for Saturday's trip to the Wirral, Fairway would again shuffle the pack, handing chances to some of his younger squad members.

Edited by displaced_seagull

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www.pnefc.co.uk - Saturday 23rd July

Experimental North End lineup held

Preston returned to English soil with a trip to Tranmere Rovers on Saturday afternoon, with North End frustrated by the hosts for much of the first half. Ro-Shaun Williams almost opened his account with a towering header on 38, only for the ball to just beat the upright as well as 'keeper Lee Coddington, whilst at the other end Mozambique international Joachim Manjate did well to turn away from Mendes just before half time. After two changes in the first half, Preston made a further five at the break, including a first senior appearance for 17 year old Youth Team midfielder Eddie Ryder. Preston stepped up the pace in the second half, and after Caballero had teed up Craig Campbell for a shot that was tipped onto the post on 52, took the lead ten minutes later when Mark Paterson found Jamie Burgess for a lofted finish into the corner. Another new face, young goalkeeper Billy Morrison, would make his bow in the second half, but he was unable to hold Chris Dawson's 70th minute speculative effort from range as Tranmere became the first side to breach the Preston defence in Preseason. Young Ryder would draw a fingertip stop from 'keeper Coddington on 81 and Steve Michealis saw an effort tipped up onto the crossbar as Preston pushed for a winner, but were unable to seal the win in frantic exchanges late on.

Stuart Fairway refused to be disappointed after the game, telling the club website that "With an experimental lineup and frequent changes, we lacked a little cohesion today. Preseason though is all about fitness, and I felt today was a chance to have a look at some of the fringe players and give them a go in what is a difficult place to come. I think we played well at times, and whilst there is inevitably things we will work on as a group as a result of this game, on the whole I am satisfied with our performances"

Preston; Manjate (Morrison 60), Burn (c) (King 45), Williams (Bell 60), Bowles (Clarke 30), Burgess (Bartholomew 60), Bryan (Paterson 45), Henry (Smith 45), Hughes (Ryder 45), Kolosov (Caballero 30), Trialist (Vanzie 45), Campbell (Michealis 60)

The game would make Fairway's mind up about the hopes of Zach Clough , who again failed to really impress, with Preston calling a halt to his trial spell on Saturday evening. The manager felt that it was a missed opportunity for the former Bolton and Brighton man, and was disappointed that Clough had not taken his chance, having initially shown much promise when first joining up with Preston in Denmark. Speaking to Mark Morrison over a beer on Sunday afternoon, as the two families got together for one of their regular barbecues, Fairway, for the first time, admitted his concerns - whilst the window had begun well with two key signings, since then, the arrivals at Deepdale had been mostly younger players who Fairway hoped, but could not be sure, would be up to the rigours of one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Even with promotion, one of Preston's problems last season had been scoring goals, and Fairway told Morrison that wanted to see more from his strikers over the remaining friendlies to have confidence that he would have the firepower to keep Preston up.

It was still playing on his mind on Monday, when the news broke that, once again, the signature of Simranjit Thandi had eluded him, with the Indian-born defender instead signing for Preston's defeated playoff final opponents, Brentford in a £350,000 switch. He would also miss out on Frederik Holst , who had agreed terms with Portuguese side Santa Clara . Fairway was reminded of the problems of last summer, and the struggles he had then trying to persuade players that Preston were a viable Championship side. Thanks to their remarkable promotion, those struggles were now magnified with, as the various newspapers began to put together their predicted table, North End were installed as favourites to be relegated.

If the players were affected by such speculation however, they did not show it, with training continuing to be both enjoyable and enlightening for the manager to witness. He was especially pleased with the competition for places in midfield, with Nicky Hughes now capable of being paired with any one of either Johnson, Caballero or Kolosov , and whilst the obvious areas to strengthen remained as right wingback and up front, new scout Geoff Taylor came up with a name for the former on Wednesday morning that sent Fairway racing to make an offer before his side travelled to Accrington Stanley .

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www.pnefc.co.uk - Wednesday 27th July

Competition For Places 'Never Higher' as North End Beat Stanley

Our preseason preparations continued with a 2-1 win this evening against Accrington Stanley with manager Stuart Fairway declaring that competition for a place in the first team had never been higher at the club. Preston began brightly, and soon went ahead when Craig Campbell's shot came back off the post to be snaffled up by Steve Michealis from close range, but the hosts refused to roll over, with Webb twice close from range whilst Ro-Shaun Williams could only head wide from Rico Henry's free kick. Preston lost Juan Daniel Caballero to a precautionary change after a knock before the interval, with Fairway waiting until the 65th minute to make any further changes. Unfortunately, those changes would come just after Stanley had equalised, with young midfielder Renan , on loan from Liverpool, smashing through a crowd past the unsighted Cameron Dawson to equalise on 64. In a game of few chances, Preston would save the best till last - on 86, Smith finding Johnson, who clipped a glorious ball into the path of Rico Vanzie for the striker to volley home his second of preseason from the edge of the box. Next up we travel to Colchester United in a testamonial match for U's Captain Tom Eastman.

Preston; Dawson (Manjate 65), Burgess (Vermilj 65), Bowles (King 65), Williams (Bell 65), Burn (c) (Clarke 65), Henry (Smith 65), Bryan (Paterson 65), Hughes (Johnson 65), Caballero (Kolykov 30), Campbell (Vanzie 65), Michealis (Al-Yazeedi 65)

The victory had not come without cost, with Juan Daniel Caballero ruled out for ten days with a wrist injury after falling awkwardly, but better news was to follow, with Fairway informed that Stoke City had accepted his £800,000 bid for Angelo Fulgini after transfer-listing the 25 year old Ivory Coast international during the week. Fulgini had been a £2.7 million capture for the Potters back in 2019/20, but had since spent much time out on loan with Chievo in Italy and Rapid Wein in Austria, and was now seemingly surplus to requirements. With the fee agreed and, in Fairway's opinion, a bargain, discussions over personal terms took a little longer, but by the end of the day on Thursday, Fulgini had an a package to consider. 

The following day, whilst Fulgini returned to Staffordshire to mull over Preston's approach, a light training session saw Tom Coughlan unfortunate to be injured in an accidental collision, ruling the young Irishman out of a place on the bench for Saturday's trip to Colchester . Eddie Ryder would again be called on by Fairway to fill a space, and, much to his delight, was also included in the squad numbers list sent off to the Premier League on Friday afternoon, with fellow Under 18's Alan McManus and Michael Bywater also given their own numbers.

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www.pnefc.co.uk - Saturday 30th July

Eastman Honoured As Impressive North End Win Again

Preston North End were honoured to provide the opposition for the testimonial of Colchester stalwart Tom Eastman, joining with the opposition to give the defender a guard of honour onto the pitch. That though was where the charity ended from Stuart Fairway's side, who dominated the early proceedings, with efforts from Johnson, Williams and Campbell all close. It seemed only a matter of time, and after Campbell had seen a shot parried to safety by Brighton goalkeeper Sam Walker, returning to his previous club for the occasion, Daniel Johnson gave North End the lead on 27 with a thunderous drive from the edge of the area. Walker would then only block another effort from range from the Jamaican, with Steve Michealis following in to slam home the loose ball, before, on 36, Preston made it three when Hughes found Henry on the left hand side of the box, who cut back for Craig Campbell to smash the ball into the roof of the net. Perhaps inspired by a superb interception in the area from the man of the day Eastman, Colchester would then step up a gear, with Denny Johnstone slightly unfortunate to be denied on the stroke of half time, his shot hitting the trailing foot of Ro-Shaun Williams to take the sting out of it, before being hooked to safety. The hosts had probably their best spell of the game just after the break, with Williams doing well to head clear from Butcher's cross, but on 58, they would pull one back, when two more guest players combined well, with Macauley Bonne racing on to slot past Cameron Dawson. It would only prove a consolation however, and after changes, Preston could have added further goals with both Bryan and Bell close. Whilst Eastman was carried from the field by his teammates, Preston departed to warm applause from the small number of away supporters with just two more games remaining ahead of the big Premier League kickoff on the 13th of August.

Preston; Dawson (Manjate 61), Bowles (Clarke 61), Williams (King 77), Burn (c) (Clarke 61), Burgess (Vermilj 77), Bryan (Paterson 77), Henry (Smith 77), Johnson (Ryder 61), Hughes (Kolosov 61), Campbell (Vanzie 77), Michealis (Al-Yazeedi 77)

Two warmup games would now remain before Preston's Premier League opener, with Fairway increasingly keen to get his transfer business sorted before the opening day. With that in mind, it was with great pleasure that Preston formally welcomed Angelo Fulgini to the club on Monday morning, with the wingback agreeing a 3 year contract for a fee of £800,000 from Stoke City . Reaction seemed generally positive, with Fairway telling Fugini he would start in the Tuesday night trip to Bamber Bridge .

Bramall Lane would be the venue for the Under 23's meanwhile on Monday evening, in a friendly against the second string of Sheffield United which drew a small crowd, but, Fairway noted, plenty of scouts from other clubs, with Duncan Shearer's side recording a 3-0 win thanks to goals from Adam Smith, Dan Crowley and a superb drive from Tom Huddlestone from just outside the box. The only casualty from the evening would be young fullback Chris Wright , who suffered concussion after a clash of heads, ruling him out for around three days. With some of the younger players playing for much of the game and, in the case of Mark Paterson , all of it, the previous day, Tuesday's trip to Bamber Bridge saw Fairway make several changes to his squad, with Juan Daniel Caballero also not risked despite passing a late fitness test.

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www.pnefc.co.uk - Tuesday 1st August

Comfortable Win In Penultimate Friendly

Angelo Fulgini made his Preston debut as North End eased to a  win over Bamber Bridge this evening, with the wingback getting an hour as Stuart Fairway rotated his squad in the second half. Preston took an early lead on 6 through Steve Michealis placed finish, and saw Kean Bryan shoot against the crossbar before Mykola Kolosov turned the loose ball in from close range on 20. Kean Bryan would finally get his name on the scoresheet just after the interval, after a mazy run in which he danced past three defenders to score with a powerful finish, before Fairway made eleven changes, introducing several youngsters. Despite the change in personnel however North End did not let up, with the hosts unable to record a single shot all evening, and on 67, Marnick Vermilj cut back for Abdulla Al-Yazeedi to head home from close range. Perhaps the pick of the goals however was saved till last, with Rico Vanzie's backheel into the path of 16 year old Eddie Ryder , who took a touch before rifling a shot into the top corner from 25 yards out. It was a deserved victory with Bamber Bridge attracting a sellout crowd despite the unseasonable wind and rain which lashed the Sir Tom Finney stadium for much of the game, with Stuart Fairway telling the club website after the game that he was 'pleased to see the performance was not affected by the weather conditions'. 

Preston; Dawson (Manjate 62), Bowles (Clarke 62), Williams (Bull 62), Burn (c) (Clarke 62), Fulgini (Vermilj 62), Bryan (Burgess 62), Henry (Mooney 62), Kolosov (Ryder 62), Hughes (Johnson 62), Campbell (Vanzie 62), Michealis (Al-Yazeedi 62)

At a team meeting on Wednesday morning Fairway revealed that he planned to name nine subs and use, unless required, at most seven for the final friendly. A hush fell over the room, with the squad now knowing that their manager intended to name his first choice eleven for the game against Auxerre, with those not involved knowing they would have real work to do over the final week of preseason to be in with a chance of being involved on opening day.

Some of those present would not be involved at all, with loan moves planned, as, on Thursday, Fairway accepted bids from Wigan Athletic and TP Mazembe for striker Stephy Mavididi , bids from League One sides Swindon, Gillingham, Bristol City and Bradford for Dan Crowley , and, later in the day, a bid from Luton Town for Mark Paterson . All three players had been told by Fairway that they were not in his current first team plans, but he urged them, wherever they went, to make the most of the opportunity. There would also be loan moves for two of the younger players, with Alan McManus and Reece Mistry sent out to Bromley for the season in a bid to get them involved in adult football. 

There would also be news on the incoming transfer front, with Fairway placing a bid of £4.1 million for Racing Club de Lens striker Erland Høiland early on Friday afternoon. With one cap for Norway , Høiland had become frustrated at being used primarily off the bench as Lens suffered a shock relegation from France's top division, especially as, when given opportunities, he had scored goals. The 21 year old had also been prolific at international level, with five goals in as many games in qualifying for the European Under 21 Championship , and a total of 10 in 18 for his country at Under 21 level. As Høiland jetted in for talks, Fairway discussed the approach with his coaching staff, all of whom knew that the manager wanted to add to the attack, with concerns over the suitability of at least three of the current quartet for the rigours of Premier League football. Whilst new signing Craig Campbell could be expected to produce regularly, Fairway's mind was cast back to Steve Michealis' spells without particularly positive contribution last season, despite the Australian eventually ending up with 24 goals, whilst Abdulla Al-Yazeedi and in particular Rico Vanzie had also struggled at times in The Championship.

Høiland arrived by Friday teatime, as Mark Paterson exited for Luton Town on a six month loan, and whilst Høiland and his agent seemed pleased with Preston's offer, the manager was engaged in discussions with a second striker, although Sonny Massey , a 16 year old from the prolific Crewe Alexandra production line would be very much 'one for the future'. 

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www.pnefc.co.uk - Saturday 6th August

Final Friendly Victory As North End Beat Auxerre

Preston North End completed preseason preparations with a 1-0 win over French side AJ Auxerre, who, like Preston, have just been promoted to the top flight. North End began brightly, with Craig Campbell close with an early free kick before Steve Michealis gave us the lead on 9, tapping home from close range after Rico Henry had raced away down the left to cross from the byline. It would then be almost one way traffic for much of the first period, with Ro-Shaun Williams heading just over on 11 before Campbell fired into the side netting on 32. Stuart Fairway made two changes at half time, introducing Kolosov for Caballero and Vanzie for goalscorer Michealis, with Rico Vanzie close to grabbing the second on 47 from Kolosov's pass, only for Damien Citron to make a fine save. Cameron Dawson would then be tested at the other end, holding well from Jankovic, before the striker volleyed wide on 65 from Nabil Estifanos' excellent cross. Preston finished strongly with Citron only able to parry Campbell's drive onto the post on 77, before Fulgini put an effort just the wrong side of the post on 82. The visitors could have grabbed a late leveller on 84, with Nando's free kick headed wide by Milos Vulic, but it would be Preston who celebrated victory, heading into the new season unbeaten over the preseason campaign.

Stuart Fairway said; "Today's result gives me real hope for the start of the season. We came up against a side loaded with international quality and, to be frank, outplayed them. The lad Estifanos, who is apparently being watched by some very big clubs, caused us a few problems, but I felt we were able to deal with them. I felt a bit sorry for Craig Campbell today who did everything but score, but I am pleased to say that Juan Daniel Caballero and Ro-Shaun Williams, who we withdrew after heavy challenges, have both been passed fit by the medical team and will be involved on Saturday.

Preston; Dawson, Fulgini, Burn (c) (Clarke 60), Williams (Bell 78), Bowles, Henry, Bryan (Burgess 60), Caballero (Kolosov 45), Hughes (Johnson 60), Campbell, Michealis (Vanzie 45)

Unused; Manjate, Al-Yazeedi, Vermilj

Whilst the score would not reflect Preston's dominance, Fairway felt pleased with his side's performance, and, as Chelsea clinched the first silverware of the season on Sunday by beating Manchester City 2-1 in the Community Shield , the final piece in his jigsaw was placed, as Erland Høiland agreed to become Preston's record signing in a £4.1 Million switch from Lens . Whilst one striker arrived at Deepdale, another departed, with Stephy Mavididi heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo to join Tout Puissant Mazembe on loan for the season - Les Corbeaux having won 14 out of the 21 available League titles since the turn of the Millenium, and an ideal destination for the explosive striker who, Fairway believed, could still have a part to play in the future.

By Monday, with the formality of a post-Brexit Work Permit signed, Erland Høiland became a Preston player, Fairway felt his squad was all but complete, with a free transfer to bring out of contract young American midfielder Nathan Woods , 19, to the club from WSA Winnipeg . Woods, an American under 20 international, would go into Duncan Shearer's Under 23 side, now increasingly being referred to as the Development Squad with Fairway expecting a bright future for the blond-haired and enthusiastic midfielder from Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Fairway unveiled the duo on Tuesday, with Johnny Burn also in attendance, having been appointed as club captain to succeed Tom Clarke , with both player and manager feeling that Burn, 9 years Clarke's junior and having successfully skippered the side throughout Preseason, would be the ideal replacement for his ageing fellow centre half. 

After hoping for a quiet week on the transfer front, by Tuesday afternoon it had quickly turned into a very busy one, as Fairway's resolve was tested with three bids of £750,000 for Marnick Vermilj . The defender seemed slightly surprised to be called in after training by his manager, but agreed that it was perhaps time for a fresh start, after an unsettled year last season when rumoured interest from Eibar did not turn into a concrete bid, with the Belgian also pushed down the pecking order with the summer arrival of Angelo Fulgini . Vermilj would not be the only fullback interesting other clubs, as Travis Bartholomew would be the subject of loan offers on Wednesday morning, with Fairway accepting the bids in order to allow the young defender a chance to recover from last season's injury-hit campaign with regular football at a lower level. One of the potential destinations would be Bristol City , who had already won the race for Dan Crowley , who departed to Ashton Gate for the season in a bid to prove himself, with his Preston chances now looking distinctly limited. 

Vermilj would travel to Turkey on Thursday to discuss terms with two of the three clubs chasing his signature, whilst back at Deepdale, Fairway introduced the shy, but hugely promising Sonny Massey to both Under 18 manager Jordan Sharvin and Duncan Shearer, with Massey expected to play for both sides over the course of the campaign. At 16, Massey would very much be considered a hot prospect for the future, and with three highly promising youngsters in Alex Lane, Michael Bywater and Massey, Fairway hoped he now had the future of Preston's forward line tied up for several years to come. Some of those youngsters would have a realistic hope of representing the first team in the League Cup , with the Second Round draw pitting Preston against Coventry City of League One at Deepdale in a midweek game sandwiched between league matches against two of the giants, Liverpool and Arsenal , with Fairway knowing that rotating his squad would need to be part of his plans for the campaign to come.



Daily Telgraph, Friday 12th August 2022

Telegraph Premier League Preview

Preston North End
Last Season; N/A - Promoted from the Championship as Playoff Winners
Key Man - Nicky Hughes . Supremely talented playmaker who has surprisingly not yet earned full Scotland honours
One To Watch - Erland Høiland . Summer signing should add strength and goals to Preston's attack, and will need to settle quickly with a tough start to the season

First Team Squad

Goalkeepers ; Cameron Dawson, Joaquim Manjate
Defenders ; Angelo Fulgini, Rico Henry, Sam Bowles, Johnny Burn, Tom Clarke, Ro-Shaun Williams, Brian Bell
Midfielders ; Kean Bryan, Nicky Hughes, Daniel Johnson, Juan Daniel Caballero, Mykola Kolosov, Jamie Burgess
Forwards ; Erland Høiland, Steve Michealis, Abdulla Al-Yazeedi, Rico Vanzie, Craig Campbell

Youth players likely to be involved; Nathan Woods (Midfield), Adam Smith (Midfield/Fullback), Alex Lane (Striker)

In ; Rico Henry (Bristol City, £2 Million), Ro-Shaun Williams (Aston Villa, £3.2 Million), Mykola Kolosov (Obolon-Brewer, Ukraine, £1.6 Million), Juan Daniel Caballero (Banfield, Argentina, £1.6 Million), Craig Campbell (Hearts, £1.9 Million), Billy Morrison (Manchester City, Free), Marc Paterson (Kilmarnock, £25k), Angelo Fulgini (£800,000, Stoke City), Nathan Woods (WSA Winnipeg, Free), Erland Høiland (Lens, France, £4.1 Million), Sonny Massey (Crewe Alexandra, Undisclosed)

Out ; James Thomas (Falkirk, Loan), Will Tuck (Stevenage Borough, Loan), Martyn Biggs (Reading, £750k), Craig Black (Kilmarnock, Loan), Ross Soutar (St Mirren, Loan), Marc Paterson (Luton, Loan), Stephy Mavididi (TP Mazembe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Loan), Dan Crowley (Bristol City, Loan), Richard Macrae, Graham Hargreaves, Marvin Buchanan, Dave Byrne, Andy Sykes, Rob Taylor (All Released)

Telegraph Verdict; 20th - No Happy Ending for this Fairytale

PRESTON stunned the Championship last season as the preseason relegation candidates regained the top flight status they last held in 1961 after success in the Playoffs. Stuart Fairway is a highly talented young manager, but will need all of his acumen and a healthy dose of luck if he is to keep Preston in an extremely competitive division - whilst the signings of Høiland and Campbell should add firepower, there is little Premier League experience here, with only Angelo Fulgini, with a handful of games for Stoke, who has played at this level previously. On the plus side, Fairway's young side do have talent, with Nicky Hughes in particular likely to be a favourite of many fantasy football managers over the season. Despite that, we still tip them for an instant return to the Football League.

Fairway read the preview aloud to Mark Morrison as the manager, assistant and Chairman Andy Lamb took coffee in the Boardroom on Friday morning. Lamb, with customary confidence, scoffed and reassured his manager that, as long as Preston gave it their best shot, he would be happy. Fairway took the news as positive, in that relegation would not automatically mean his dismissal, but knew that his Chairman, as a supporter, would be severely disappointed should North End finish in the bottom three. The trio went through their hopes - and fears - for the season in a non-confrontational atmosphere, with Fairway pledging to Lamb that, whatever happened, Preston would not go down without a fight. 

Whilst the deal for Erland Høiland would be Preston's record, for Newcastle United the money kept on leaving the coffers as Marcus Edwards , a player compared to the legendary Paul Gascoigne  emulated his hero but in reverse, leaving Tottenham Hotspur for St James' Park in an incredible £38 Million move. The 23 year old, who had played a bit-part at New White Hart Lane, wanted regular first team football to prove he could make good on his undoubted potential, and at a club known for playing with flair and style in the past, would certainly get it as André Villas-Boas splashed the cash in spectacular style on Friday morning. Later in the day, it seemed as if big spending record breaking moves were in fashion, as Brighton & Hove Albion also paid out a club record £16 million to bring Thomas Buitink , a Dutch international who did not even make his senior debut for Arsenal to the Amex after two prolific loan moves overseas in as many seasons. 

After asking his players to make sure they got a good night's rest, Fairway invited Lamb and Morrison round for one final preseason drink - with the added attraction of the first game of the season on TV. All three watched in awe as Manchester City played out a thriller against Spurs, with the Champions winning 3-2 despite a debut brace for Mauro Icardi . They knew that, the following day, the planning would be over and they would find out exactly how tough life in the Premier League was going to be.

The following morning, whilst Lamb made sure personally that every catering outlet had the right supplies, every toilet was scrupulously cleaned and every steward knew their roles on Preston's big day, Fairway was pleased to slip away to Springfields for a couple of hours to watch the Under 18's in their first League game. He was even more pleased to see a 2-0 win, with Sonny Massey scoring twice and showing his manager an instant return on the six-figure investment in the teenager. Another new singing, Billy Morrison , also looked sharp, keeping a clean sheet - and Fairway used the youngsters as an example, mentioning them in his prematch teamtalk. The time for chatter, however, was over. Now was the time to deliver.

Edited by displaced_seagull

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 13th August 2022

Preston North End 1 - Stoke City 2

A capacity crowd at Deepdale for Premier League new boys Preston North End and starts for six new signings saw Stoke City play the role of party poopers with two goals in the final 15 minutes to emerge victorious on the opening day. Nerves were evident early on, but Preston soon settled down, and could have taken the lead on 11 when Erland Høiland saw a shot deflected wide by Ryan Shawcross. Stoke seemed content to control the game from deep, probing Preston with balls into the channel with Cameron Dawson having to react quickly to gather a Marko Arnautovic cross on 26, but home fans will have been quietly confident heading into the half time interval. 

The game, whilst not short on endeavour and energy, was lacking a goal however, and on 51, Nicky Hughes wrote another note in Preston folklore by putting the hosts ahead. When Craig Campbell played the ball into the box for fellow new arrival, Paraguay international Juan Daniel Caballero, Deepdale held it's breath, before the home support exploded with rage when it appeared that Ryan Shawcross had put in a tackle from behind. Whilst referee Probert paused, he also allowed play to continue, and from the loose ball, Hughes reacted quickest to turn in from close range. Stoke, like a wounded animal, immediately sprang back - Timothy Fosu-Mensah shooting straight at Dawson on the hour, before Jordan Ayew had a shot turned away as City turned the screw. By now Preston fans were begging for respite, as time and again Stoke poured forward, only to be denied by a combination of the excellent Dawson and some wayward shooting, but on 76, after Joel Campbell had shot over, the visitors would level. It was perhaps unfortunate after working so hard for so long that Preston would be undone by a simple mistake - Høiland caught in possession on half way before Stoke moved the ball quickly from right to left, Campbell eventually laying off for Matthew Targett to fire into the top corner from just inside the box. Høiland had an immediate chance to make amends, but Jack Butland was equal to his snap-shot, and from the resulting clearance, Kean Bryan's header back was woefully underpowered, leaving Joel Campbell to turn on the afterburners to beat Tom Clarke for pace before coolly slotting past the advancing Dawson. Preston heads momentarily dropped, before they recovered well to hit the side netting in injury time through debutant Angelo Fulgini, but whilst they will look on this result as at least a point dropped, lessons will also have to be learnt here about the pace of the top flight game. Too often Preston players waited for the ball, whilst Stoke were their usual bustling selves, with the full time result a fair one.

Preston; Dawson, Fulgini, Bowles (Clarke 57), Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan, Caballero (Johnson 63), Hughes, C Campbell, Høiland

Unused; Manjate, Kolosov, Michealis, Burgess, Vanzie

Stoke; Butland, Jones, Fosu-Mensah, Shawcross, Targett, Arnautovic (Celina 53) Imbula, Arnold, Tipple (Naismith 53), Ayew, Stojiljkovic (J Campbell 64)

Unused; Traoré, Sinisterra, Kakuta, Schennikov

Referee; L Probert - Attendance; 23,404

The mood in the dressing room was deflated as Fairway tried to pick the spirits of his players up following defeat. For 70 minutes they had worked hard, got a goal and led an established Premier League side, yet they had come away with nothing. Fairway could not fault individual performances - new boy Ro-Shaun Williams did well at the back, whilst Erlend Høiland and Craig Campbell worked hard up front, and on another day each could have ended up with a goal. Fairway focused on these positives as he outlined the plans for the week, with focus expected in training on keeping the workrate up for the full 90 minutes.

His Sunday would be interrupted - firstly before lunch when Travis Bartholomew advised that he accepted the offer from Danish side Silkeborg to spend the remainder of the season in the Superliga , and again in the afternoon when Alex Lane was the subject of loan interest. Fairway had not planned to send the youngster out on loan, but was impressed that three League One clubs wanted to take him, and, after some consideration, agreed, with Lane choosing Bradford City by early evening.

By Monday, the Stoke game was forgotten, as Preston instead watched a video of next opponents Liverpool beat Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 in their opening game of the season. Despite what initially appeared a comprehensive win for the Reds, Fairway felt that Liverpool had shown areas in which they could be exploited, and reminded his players not to be overawed by the cauldron-like atmosphere of Anfield. Later the same day, he would also say fond farewells to Marnick Vermilj , who had agreed terms on a £750,000 switch to Turkish side Gençlerbirligi . Whilst the relationship between manager and player had not always been the greatest, Fairway did have a great deal of respect for the Belgian, who had served Preston well over the years, and who, at the age of 30, deserved an opportunity to play regular football.

Tuesday would see another outing for the Under 23's , with a trip to Carlisle in the morning ahead of a mid-afternoon kickoff, with Duncan Shearer choosing to start with two members of the first team squad who had been made available, with Abdulla Al-Yazeedi scoring twice and Rico Vanzie once after a Tom Coughlan goal had put Preston ahead. Carlisle had no response, and Fairway was particularly pleased to see that some of those who had been given a chance in preseason looked to be much improved, with Paul King in particular a standout player at the back for North End. 

As the sale of Vermilj had not been on the cards at the start of the summer, Fairway found himself pondering defensive cover on Wednesday, and winced as he saw Angelo Fulgini slide into a challenge before rubbing his ankle in training. The departure of the Belgian, plus the loan move for Travis Bartholomew, meant that Preston were now short of cover on the right, and by mid-afternoon, the manager had acted, when, after failing to persuade coach Jason Dodd , only half in jest, to re-register as a player, his £1.3 million bid for D.C. United wingback Chris Holmes was accepted. The player had been recommended by one of his former teammates and now Preston coach Paul Huntingdon , and, whilst not yet a full international at the age of 22, Holmes was certainly known to be knocking on the door of a place in the USA squad. Fairway was particularly impressed with Holmes' stamina and workrate, knowing that such qualities were key to his side's system, which relied on the wingbacks operating in both the defensive and transition phases of play.

The offer was accepted by Friday morning, and with personal terms proving a breeze, Holmes checked in at Liverpool's John Lennon airport on Saturday, just as the team arrived from Preston to head to Anfield for the game. With introductions quickly made, Fairway allowed Holmes to join the squad in the away changing room in a bid to integrate the American as quickly as possible. Here he would name an unchanged side, keeping faith with the starting eleven who had lost on the opening day.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 20th August 2022

Liverpool 2 - Preston North End 1

It took just 37 seconds for Liverpool to take the lead against Preston at Anfield, with Adrien Silva scoring an early contender for goal of the season with a volley from 30 yards into the top corner after great work on the right by Ben Woodburn. Preston looked shellshocked at the early goal, which came after they had given away possession cheaply straight from the kickoff, but Liverpool can count themselves slightly fortunate that Joel Matip was not punished on 16 when his timid jump allowed Erland Høiland to run in behind. The Norwegian striker took the ball in his stride, and went for power, aiming low to the left, only for Gerónimo Rulli to get down well to tip the ball behind. Craig Campbell would then head the resulting corner well wide of target, as Preston seemed to build in confidence, with Juan Daniel Caballero even closer on 26 with a header against the crossbar from Rico Henry's centre. Liverpool meanwhile failed to kick on after their early goal, with crosses into the box comfortably dealt with by the superb Ro-Shaun Williams, though it could have been two just before the break when Woodburn forced Cameron Dawson to tip wide.

Having conceded early in the first half, Preston did mot want to make the same mistake again, and indeed continued to look bright after the interval, with Nicky Hughes shooting wide from Angelo Fulgini's pass on 47, before Craig Campbell bent a free kick over on 51. With the Anfield crowd starting to get a little twitchy, Denis Suárez would then shoot wide at the other end, before a terrific run from Woodburn on the hour ended with a shot just the wrong side of the post. Stuart Fairway reacted by replacing the ineffectual Campbell with last season's 24-goal talisman Steve Michealis, but three minutes later would see his side fall further behind when good work on the right from Nathanial Clyne and Reginaldo Passarelli saw Ben Woodburn cap a fine move with a delightful chipped finish. North End looked to get back on the front foot immediately in response, and on 66 their hard work would pay off, as Dawson held a Xherdan Shaqiri cross and played the ball out to the left. As Clyne dithered, Høiland showed great upper body strength to bustle past the fullback, before crossing for Steve Michealis to net Preston's first top flight goal away from home since 1961 with a powerful strike that Rulli could not get enough behind to keep out. Despite the scoreline and newfound belief for the visitors, there would be no glorious comeback - Divock Origi hitting the side netting for Liverpool on 74 as the hosts closed the game out, with Woodburn again close late on as the Reds finished strongly.

Liverpool; Rulli, Clyne, Matip, Sakho, Moreno, Passarelli (Davies 84), Suárez (Boothby 79), Silva (Henderson 79), Shaqiri, Origi, Woodburn

Unused; Grabara, Troupée, Hasan Peker, Nijland

Preston; Dawson, Fulgini (Burgess 79), Bowles, Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan, Caballero (Johnson 79), Hughes, Campbell (Michealis 60), Høiland

Unused; Clarke, Manjate, Kolosov, Vanzie

Referee; K Friend - Attendance; 54,074

Although Steve Michealis had the honour of scoring Preston's first goal away from Deepdale at the top table since a 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers on the final day of the 1960/61 season, it was the first goalscorer of Premier League era Preston, Nicky Hughes , who Fairway found himself most pleased for, with promotion also seeming to - finally - signal the opportunity of international recognition, after Scotland manager Robbie Neilson was spotted at Anfield to keep tabs on the midfielder. His fellow Scot, Craig Campbell , however had not overly impressed, and Fairway was torn between giving Campbell another chance to open his account in midweek or making a change up front. Elsewhere, whilst Fairway had been in Liverpool with the First Team, Jordan Sharvin had been overseeing his charges in the second Under 18 game of the season, which resulted in another win, 3-1 away at Stockport County . Michael Bywater scored twice for the young North End side, with Jonathan Mooney also claiming a rare goal in a comfortable victory that was all but wrapped up in the first half. 

The mood on Monday morning was still positive despite defeat, with Fairway and his staff knowing that the fixture computer had handed them a tough opening to the season, although he was pleased that the midweek visit of Coventry City in the League Cup was, on paper at least, a game Preston could be expected to win comfortably. Whilst changes were expected, Fairway would have to do without Adam Smith , who would move on Tuesday for a five month loan stint at League Two Barnet , albeit with the caveat of a 24 hour recall clause should Smith be required at Deepdale.

Training on Wednesday morning was light, with Fairway leaving his final decisions until after the session, naming a strong side but with a handful of changes, with Jamie Burgess, Mykola Kolosov and Tom Clarke replacing Angelo Fulgini, Juan Daniel Caballero and Sam Bowles . There would also be a Preston debut for Joaquim Manjate between the sticks, with Nathan Woods and Brian Bell named on the bench for the visit of the League One opposition. Elsewhere, the big news was that Nicky Hughes had gained his first senior Scotland call alongside Craig Campbell for the European International League games against Greece and England , with Steve Michealis (Australia), Daniel Johnson (Jamaica) and Abdulla Al-Yazeedi (Qatar) also called up for their countries for friendly matches against Syria, Costa Rica and Bahrain respectively. At Under 21 level, Erland Høiland for Norway , Tom Coughlan (Ireland), Mykola Kolosov (Ukraine) and the Scottish duo of Marc Paterson and Brian Bell would all hope to be involved in European Championship qualifiers. 

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Wednesday 24th August 2022

Preston North End 3 - Coventry City 1

Newly appointed club captain Johnny Burn headed a 12th minute opener from Nicky Hughes' corner as Premier League newcomers Preston North End avoided a potential banana-skin with a dominant showing against Coventry City.  The visitors only threatened from set pieces, with Jodi Jones sending a free kick over the bar on 24, before Nicky Hughes' trickery created a second for Preston on 40, the young Scottish midfielder beating two before crossing for international colleague Craig Campbell to tap home from close range. Preston did not let up after the break, with a third to kill the game on 47 again coming from Craig Campbell after a superb run and cross from the hardworking Erland Høiland, and the striker should have had a hatrick when heading wide from Rico Henry's corner on 63. As Preston eased off, sub Brian Bell tripped Reo Griffiths ten minutes later, with a powerful free kick from Craig Tanner giving Coventry supporters at least something to remember the game by, scoring with their only shot on target. Høiland could have made it four late on - a marginal offside call denying the striker when well placed - whilst Campbell headed straight at more with three minutes remaining as Preston eased their way into the next round. 

Preston; Manjate, Burgess, Clarke, Williams (Bell 45), Burn (c), Henry, Bryan (Fulgini 73), Kolosov (Woods 73), Hughes, Campbell, Høiland

Unused; Dawson, Johnson, Michealis, Vanzie

Coventry; Moore, Darby, Willis, Nyambe, Richards, Stevenson (Lapslie 48), Jones (Thomson 64), Hinds, Tanner, Evans, Friend (Griffiths 59)

Unused; Pope-Lewis, Lowe, Norris, Haynes

Referee; M Clattenburg - Attendance; 10,235

A delighted Craig Campbell took the acclaim for his brace on Thursday morning as training resumed early with an important league game ahead at the weekend. The draw for the Third Round was not kind, giving Preston a difficult trip to fellow Premier League West Ham United , whilst Fairway would also see more international callups, as Joaquim Manjate advised that he had been given the nod for Mozambique's African Cup of Nations qualifying games against Senegal and South Africa whilst Angelo Fulgini would get the chance to add to his 14 Ivory Coast caps in the same competition, with matches against Djibouti and Angola .

All knew that, despite the morale boosting win, Saturday's visit of Arsenal was likely to prove a far stiffer test in the final game before the international break, and it was no surprise to those who had come in when, on Friday morning, Fairway informed them that they would be replaced, with Juan Daniel Caballero, Sam Bowles, Cameron Dawson and Angelo Fulgini all regaining their places in the side. As he had done on the opening day, Fairway was pleased to have an Under 18 game to watch in the morning, but the visit of Barrow proved a frustrating affair, with the Cumbrian side playing very defensively in a goalless draw.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 27th August 2022

Preston North End 1 - Arsenal 3

Arsenal's relentless attacking play saw the Gunners come from behind to see off Preston at Deepdale, but visiting manager Luis Enriqué had praise for Preston goalkeeper Cameron Dawson, suggesting that watching England manager Gareth Southgate should consider the 27 year old in the near future. Dawson was quickly by far the busier of the two goalkeepers, making a fine early stop to deny Alexis Sánchez before Romelu Lukaku headed against the bar as Arsenal threatened to overwhelm the hosts. Jeffrey Tah thought he had put the Gunners ahead on 20, only for Rico Henry to hook off the line, whilst Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Marcelo Brozovic, the latter hitting the bar on 31, all had chances to put the visitors out of sight before half time. Preston meanwhile were reduced to shots from range early on, but would see a Juan Daniel Caballero lob dip just over as half time approached.

With Arsenal looking for an early goal in the second half, it was instead the hosts who would delight their supporters on 55, as a quick break led to Nicky Hughes finding the tireless Rico Henry, who picked a pass between the Arsenal defence for Erland Høiland to score his first North End goal from close range after beating the slow to react Wojciech Szczesny to the loose ball. With the hosts in dreamland, the response was quick and brutal - straight from the restart Arsenal worked a crossing opportunity, with Johnny Burn putting the ball behind for Mesut Ozil to lift in a corner. Ro-Shaun Williams went up, tussling with Jeffrey Tah, and seemed stunned to have been penalised, with Romelu Lukaku just beating the despairing dive of Dawson to slot the penalty kick into the corner. Lukaku was then surprisingly withdrawn along with Ozil as Arsenal sent on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jeet Pataruth,  and on 69 the substitutes combined brilliantly, with Padaruth collecting from Dawson's punch to roll the ball out to the right for Hector Bellerin. Although his cross took a deflection to wrong-foot Dawson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still had work to do to finish well from close range, with a second penalty following on 72 when Daniel Johnson barged into Brozovic, allowing Alexis Sánchez the honour of scoring his 150th goal in Arsenal colours from 12 yards out. Sanchez could have added another to his tally late on, whilst Williams headed inches beyond the far post after outjumping Matt McDaid for Preston, who are still seeking their first Premier League points.

Preston; Dawson, Fulgini, Bowles, Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan, Caballero, Hughes (Johnson 66), Campbell (Michealis 66), Høiland

Unused; Clarke, Manjate, Kolosov, Burgess, Vanzie

Arsenal; Szczesny, Bellerín, Tah, Mustafi, McDaid, Kranevitter, Brozovic, Ramsey (Coquelin 69), Mesut Ozil (Padaruth 64), Sánchez, Lukaku (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64)

Unused; Watson, Llorente, Silva, Manuel

Referee; C Pawson - Attendance; 23,404

Preston would come in for some criticism in the aftermath of the defeat for throwing away points from a winning position, but Fairway felt this was somewhat harsh, especially given that two of the goals were from penalties, neither of which certain players who were closer to the incidents felt should have been awarded. The manager himself took a pragmatic view - Preston had played three sides in their first three games who could be expected to be in the top 8 or so come the end of the season, and with a 14 day gap before the trip to West Bromwich Albion , there was time to change things in training in order to get a good result in front of the TV cameras at the Hawthorns.

Gareth Southgate meanwhile delayed his England squad announcement until after the weekend fixtures, with James Boothby and Reece Burke both given opportunities, but Cameron Dawson would be disappointed, with Ben Garratt back in the squad after missing out on a trip to the World Cup . There would be good news for Nathan Woods , called up to the USA Under 20 squad for a game against El Salvador , whilst on Monday one of the most eagerly anticipated days of the football season for many - especially journalists - would get underway, as transfer deadline day started with a bang, with defender Ross Quinn moving from Middlesbrough to Liverpool for a shade under £19 million.

Quinn's move remained the biggest throughout the early part of the morning, whilst Vlad Dragomir saw an unhappy spell at Arsenal end with a move to German side Hoffenheim , but at Deepdale, a flurry of activity seemed to go unreported, with Fairway somewhat amused to note that Kacper Wojdak was still being reported as a target for other clubs whilst he was being shown around Deepdale. Negotiations for the 23 year old Polish international were still ongoing whilst Wojdak was flying to England with his agent, with Lech Poznan proving tough bargaining partners, but, as Wojdak was whisked to Deepdale by taxi, terms were finally agreed on an initial £4.4 million move. The centre back had been on Fairway's radar in the summer, with Ro-Shaun Williams instead signed then, but having seen Sam Bowles struggle with the pace of the Premier League, the manager decided to act whilst he still had the opportunity. 

The deals continued to come thick and fast - Andile Jodwana swapping WBA for Real Madrid for a fee of £21.5 Million, whilst Mauricio Muro , a tremendously talented Argentinean striker tipped signed for Liverpool for just over £25 million from Palmerias , before, at 1pm, Fairway was finally able to confirm Preston's deadline day move, as a beaming Kacper Wojdak was presented with his Number 18 shirt before the press. The signing took Preston's summer spending over the £20 million mark, and although Fairway still had room to manoeuvre in the market, he felt that there were unlikely to be any more arrivals at Deepdale until at least January. The domestic market too seemed to slow down as the day wore on, with only Brighton & Hove Albion , who brought in defenders Tommie Hoban from Newcastle and Jordi Osei-Tutu from Rangers active, though in Germany's Bundesliga there was still money to be spent, with Schalke splashing out £32.5 Million, a record fee for the day, on winger Mirko Blazic from Celta Vigo . There would be one late signing in England, with José Gaya just squeezing through prior to the window closing, joining Leicester City from Paris St-Germain in a £9.25 Million move.

After his busy Wednesday, and with Thursday interrupted by journalists seeking quotes regarding the arrival of Wojdak, Fairway was grateful for the chance for a break to read up on his international stars on Friday morning, with many of Preston's players having successful games. Abdulla Al-Yazeedi scored for Qatar in a 3-0 win against Bahrain , whilst Steve Michealis and Daniel Johnson played for Australia and Jamaica in a 3-3 draw against Syria and a 2-1 win over Costa Rica respectively. It would only be Joaquim Manjate of the senior players who ended up on the losing side as Mozambique went down 1-0 to Senegal , but there would be better news for the Scotland Under 23's who beat Georgia 1-0 with Brian Bell and Marc Paterson playing throughout. Tom Coughlan had an easier ride as Ireland cruised past minnows Gibraltar 2-0, whilst Erlend Høiland scored for Norway in a 3-1 win against Latvia . There would also be a debut goal - for Mykola Kolosov as Ukraine thrashed San Marino 8-0 in Dnipro, with the young midfielder also claiming an assist. Back at base, Preston's Under 23's saw off AFC Flyde thanks to goals from Michael Bywater and Tom Huddlestone , whilst Fairway looked forward to a rare Saturday off.

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I've finally caught up on this and I'd just like to say what an excellent story it's been all the way through. Well done, congratulations, and good luck in that order!

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With his plans for a restful Saturday in mind, Fairway avoided a trip to Springfields to watch the Under 18's go down 3-1 to Bury on Saturday morning, instead getting the vital details after the game by phone. Whilst it was not a particularly good day for Preston, with only a Sonny Massey goal for the North End youngsters, Fairway couldn't help but turn on the radio for Sports Report on BBC Radio 5 , smiling as he remembered the rush back to the car in time for the jaunty theme tune in his younger days. There, he would learn of a successful day for another Preston youngster, as Alex Lane scored twice on his first start in a 2-1 win for Bradford City , with the loan spell seemingly starting well.

Training resumed on Monday with further bad news for Sam Bowles , who suffered strained neck muscles to rule him out for a week, but there was more positive information coming out of Dublin, with Tom Coughlan part of the Ireland Under 21 side who saw off the Faeroe Islands 2-0. Brian Bell and Marc Paterson would be part of the Scotland side who fell to a 3-1 home defeat to Germany , and for Joaquim Manjate there would be a second defeat on the bounce as Mozambique are already facing an uphill struggle to qualify for the African Cup of Nations after losing 2-0 to South Africa . Erlend Høiland would also be on the losing side as Norway lost 1-0 in Slovenia , but there were wins for the USA against El Salvador with Nathan Woods getting a half, and Mykola Kolosov would also be successful, claiming an assist as Ukraine bounced back from 2-0 down to beat Georgia 3-2 thanks to a stoppage time penalty.

The big international, at least as far as Fairway was concerned, came on Tuesday evening, with a goalless draw between Scotland and England at Hampden Park. A tense but fiery affair saw referee Marco Guida of Italy dish out six yellow cards, with the hosts on top of possession but England having more chances. The Preston interest saw Craig Campbell earn his fifth cap off the bench, but for Nicky Hughes , it would be another game as an unused substitute. Tuesday also saw games for Australia , who beat Thailand 3-1 with Steve Michealis replaced after 65 goalless minutes and Qatar , with Abdulla Al-Yazeedi scoring the second goal late on in a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia . Daniel Johnson though would be the big success story - two goals for the Jamaica midfielder in a 4-1 victory over Aruba with both trademark strikes from long range.

Thursday would see another blow to the Preston defence, with former club captain Tom Clarke injured in training, and promptly ruled out for 8 weeks with a double hernia. The news was not good, with Clarke's injury combining with the one suffered by Sam Bowles earlier in the week meaning that Fairway now considered Preston seriously lacked cover at the back. The matter was top of the agenda at the weekly coaches meeting, and, after consideration, the manager acted decisively. Noting that players signed on free transfers could be registered at any time, Fairway asked Leon Hunter for any who could be suitable. After consulting with his team, Hunter came back with the name of Moris Sportelli , a 22-year old centre back who had come through the ranks at Italian giants AC Milan , before being released in the summer. After reading the reports, Fairway sanctioned an approach - Sportelli offered a deal until the end of the season, giving both club and player plenty of flexibility. 

Preston's Under 18's took centre stage on Saturday, with the First Team not in action until Monday night's televised trip to West Bromwich Albion , with Fairway in attendance as Michael Bywater scored twice in a comfortable victory away at Carlisle . The big news in the Premier League meanwhile came at Anfield, with Ben Woodburn continuing his stunning start to the season by hitting four as Liverpool crushed Spurs 5-1. Results elsewhere saw North End drop to 18th, albeit with a game in hand, with Fairway noting that there were just two other sides so far without a point, with Brighton and Swansea still to get off the mark. Brighton promptly made it just two sides, also knocking North End down to 19th, by earning a draw at south coast rivals Bournemouth on Sunday, but Fairway paid the table scant consideration, with 35 games for North End still to play.

They would start on Monday, with Sam Bowles also passed fit to be included, leaving Brian Bell , who had been earmarked for a spot on the bench, disappointed, with Preston making just the one change, handing new signing Kacper Wojdak a start with Bowles dropping to the bench.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Monday 12th September 2022

West Bromwich Albion 1 - Preston North End 2

Preston North End earned their first points in the top division since the 1960/61 season with a well deserved victory against a WBA side who pushed their opponents all the way at the Hawthorns. With record signing Kacper Wojdak making his bow in defence, it was Preston's previous record capture, Erland Høiland who was tripped as he turned to shoot on 15, with Craig Campbell sending the resulting free kick over the bar. After this close shave though the hosts looked brighter, and should have taken the lead before half time, with Fede Cartabia firing into the side netting on 20 before Ogenyi Onazi volleyed over on 31. 

With the game on a knife-edge at the interval, it was Preston who looked to gain the early advantage in the second half, with Juan Daniel Caballero seeing an effort tipped behind by Mattia Perin on 54, with debutant Wojdak heading over from the resulting Rico Henry corner. As the second half progressed WBA increasingly focused on attacking down the flanks, with Cartabia a constant threat, with a cross on 66 which saw Tyler Roberts smash over when well placed. It would be Preston though, on 72, who took the lead - Høiland again causing problems for the hosts with a curling free kick into the box after the striker had been tripped by Albert Acquah, which was neatly headed home by captain Johnny Burn . After battling for the lead, Preston manager Fairway urged calmness and concentration, even as his players returned to the centre circle, but another Cartabia run would see the hosts level four minutes later - the Argentine's cross dealt with superbly by Burn, only for the ball to be worked back in and Demari Gray to equalise from close range. Cartabia would almost conjure up another goal as Preston gave possession away cheaply from the restart, but Cameron Dawson was equal to Liam Cullen's header. Preston too had their chances as the game seemed to be heading towards the draw - Steve Michealis twice close - before, with the clock showing 89, a wonder goal from 19 year old Ukranian Mykola Kolosov gave North End that precious first victory. Kolosov himself helped to create the goal, collecting a pass from Nicky Hughes and spraying the ball out to the right. Jamie Burgess swooped onto it, beating his marker before pulling the ball back to the edge of the box for Kolosov to unleash a stunning strike into the cop corner which gave Perin no chance. Preston will need more games - and effort - like this if they are to stay up, but an away victory against an established Premier League side is no easy feat, and they deserve credit for a battling performance throughout.

WBA; Perin, Wilson, Jovanovic, Bensebanini, Kingsley, Gray, André Gomes (Acquah 57), Onazi (Field 51), Cartabia, Adeniji (Roberts 62), Cullen

Unused; Stankovic, Kristensen, Bree, Brannagan

Preston; Dawson, Fulgini, Wojdak, Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan (Burgess 83), Caballero (Kolosov 62), Hughes, Campbell (Michealis 60), Høiland

Unused; Bowles, Manjate, Johnson, Vanzie

Referee; M Oliver - Attendance; 26,445

The mood in the camp was almost comparable to that which Fairway had seen after the playoffs, with Preston's players - and indeed coaching staff - delighted to have thrown the monkey off their back and earned the first points of the season. Whilst he did not want to dampen the mood too much, the manager reminded his squad that they still had a long and hard road ahead of them. 

Even he though did not expect the news on Wednesday that new signing Kacper Wojdak , solid on his debut, would be ruled out for between 6 and 8 weeks, and would require surgery to repair a double hernia after a training ground collision left him in clear discomfort. Disappointed and frustrated, Fairway bemoaned his side's luck at a somewhat fraught press conference on Thursday ahead of the Manchester United game at the weekend, but would at least tie up the deal to bring in Moris Sportelli later in the day to give cover at the back.

For the trip to Old Trafford though it would be Sam Bowles deputising for Wojdak in one of three changes with Brian Bell on the bench, goalscorer Mykola Kolosov would start in place of Juan Daniel Caballero , whilst up front Craig Campbell's continued inconsistent performances saw Steve Michealis , the man who scored the goal which gave Preston the honour of going to such hallowed venues, the opportunity of a first start of the season to partner Erlend Høiland up front.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 17th September 2022

Manchester United 2 - Preston North End 1

A slow start at Old Trafford suited underdogs Preston North End, who saw Koke create an opportunity for Eric Bailly which was headed over and Marcus Rashford volley wide before the visitors had even managed a spell of meaningful possession inside the United half. United's superstars almost toyed with North End at times in the early exchanges, creating opportunities which went to waste before, on 21, Kasper Dolberg put the hosts ahead with a low, driven finish from just inside the area. Preston created few chances throughout, with two contrasting styles at play - North End very much playing on the counter, with United moving the ball around with bewitching speed and intelligent movement off the ball. It would though stun Old Trafford when, on 29, the visitors levelled - Rico Henry played in on the left hand side of the box to cut back for Steve Michealis to shoot accurately into the corner. Although the hosts had chances to regain the lead before half time, some wayward finishing and inspired defending - former United man Ro-Shaun Williams again the standout for Preston - allowed North End to keep them at bay, though Dolberg would strike the crossbar.

The game would turn however two minutes after the interval when, after what looked a fairly innocuous challenge, Mykola Kolosov, who scored a brilliant goal on Monday, was dismissed for a second bookable offence. From then on it was one way traffic - Fairway withdrawing goalscorer Michealis to leave Høiland as a game, if ineffectual lone front runner as United turned the screw. They could have taken the lead on 57 when Marcus Rashford drew a fine save from Dawson, should have taken the lead two minutes later when the unmarked Emerson Santos headed across goal from a corner, and eventually did take the lead on 71, with Kingsley Coman scoring his first in United colours by finishing off a fine move, finding a gap to meet an Angel Gomes through ball before finishing with aplomb. Preston huffed and puffed in response, with Dawson doing a remarkable job to keep the maurauding hordes at bay, but would be unable to offer anything going forward, with Williams nodding what was only their fourth chance of the game wide from a Henry free kick in injury time. The sending off was perhaps a little harsh - referee Marriner has come in for some critisicm already this season and today's performance was not the best we have seen from him all round - but United simply outclassed Preston - who again put in a great team effort, but again found themselves wanting against top drawer opposition.

Man Utd; De Gea, Vrsaljko, López, Bailly (Emerson Santos 52), Shaw, Koke, Pogba (Goretzka 63) Coman, Chagas (Gomes 57), Dolberg, Rashford

Unused; Raya, Arthur, Mata, Hendrix

Preston; Dawson, Fulgini (Burgess 73), Bowles, Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan, Kolosov, Hughes, Michealis (Johnson 47), Høiland

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Caballero, Campbell, Vanzie

Referee; A Marriner - Attendance; 77,635

For the first time in a long while Fairway allowed his heart to overrule his head at the Press Conference following the game, criticising the decision to sent Kolosov from the field, which would bring an almost instant rebuke from the FA under the 'Respect' agenda. North End would remain 16th in the table following the weekend fixtures, outside of the relegation zone at this early stage but still with the need to get some early points on the board.

Fairway pondered his team selection throughout Monday - with a trip to the capital on Wednesday night in the League Cup, and Kolosov suspended, at least one change would be needed, but with three important league games, all at home, coming up, and the League Cup not a priority, he decided that more wholesale changes would be in order, with Rico Vanzie in place of Erland Høiland and Daniel Johnson replacing Kolosov for their first starts of the season, with recalls for Jamie Burgess, Joaquim Manjate and Craig Campbell , replacing Fulgini, Dawson and Michealis . The bench would also see potential opportunities - Tom Coughlan involved in the first team squad once more, with teenagers Eddie Ryder and Micheal Bywater also coming along for the ride.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Wednesday 21st September 2022

West Ham United 2 - Preston North End 3
Whilst the League Cup may have long lost its lustre for the top clubs, the competition can still throw up some entertaining ties, as was the case at the London Stadium where hosts West Ham got off to the perfect start as Jesse Lingard ghosted in at the far post to nod the Hammers ahead after just five minutes, and continued to dominate the early proceedings. Orbelin Pineda would then shoot wide on 12, but the first half would turn on 34, when Preston, somewhat against the run of play, levelled. As West Ham surged forward in numbers, Nicky Hughes picked up a loose pass, finding Kean Bryan who poked the ball into the path of Jamie Burgess. Cutting in from the right, a perfectly-weighted pass from the fullback allowed Craig Campbell , to drill a fine finish into the corner. Five minutes later, it was two - Daniel Johnson's superb challenge on goalscorer Lingard allowing Preston to come forward, and although Rico Henry's first touch was heavy on the left, he recovered well to whip in a cross from the byeline.  Ryan Sessegnon got just enough of a clearance to deny Campbell, but could do nothing to prevent Rico Vanzie from prodding the loose ball home from close range.

Preston suffered a blow just before half time when Kean Bryan appeared to be caught, and it was little surprise when Angelo Fulgini replaced the midfielder at the interval. The change in personnel appeared to impact on Preston's flow, with Lingard firing into the side netting on 47 before Joaquim Manhate did well to hold Sessengon's cross. With West Ham again looking the more likely, Preston struck back in decisive style on 65, after Fulgini's shot was cutely, and cleverly, flicked into the net by Rico Vanzie with an outstretched heel enough to alter the course of the ball into the roof of the net. The hosts were stunned, but reacted well, and when Ro-Shaun Williams hobbled off after turning an ankle, went for the jugular. Jesse Lingard put them back in it with a sensational strike from 25 yards on 81, but a leveller just would not come - Nikola Vlasic shooting wide from distance five minutes from time. Teenager Eddie Ryder, who has recently been dubbed 'the new David Platt' by some in the media, made his bow in the second half, replacing the somewhat subdued Hughes for Preston, and could have set up a fourth - his pass seeing Campbell upended by Jorge Meré to bring an end to a rare flowing move from the visitors - as West Ham ran out of steam, with only two fine Lingard goals for their troubles.

West Ham; Virgínia, Gómez (Figo 71), Uribe, Meré, Sessegnon, Obiang (Vlasic 56), Pineda, Azzaoui, Quina (Son 45), Lingard, Córdoba

Unused; Svilar, Conceicao, Ojo, Mawer

Preston; Manjate, Burgess, Bowles, Williams (Bell 71), Burn (c), Henry, Bryan (Fulgini 43), Johnson, Hughes (Ryder 62), Vanzie, Campbell

Unused; Dawson, Coughlan, Al-Yazeedi, Bywater

Referee; J Moss - Attendance; 23,194


Satisfied with the result and delighted with a gutsy performance, Fairway was even more happy to note that neither Kean Bryan or Ro-Shaun Williams had sustained serious injuries, and would be able to resume their usual places on Saturday. The brace for Rico Vanzie would also put his name in Fairway's mind for selection on Saturday, with some changes inevitable.

By Friday he had his selection sorted, with Cameron Dawson, Mykola Kolosov and Erland Høiland all recalled, replacing Joaquim Manhate, Daniel Johnson and Vanzie , with Craig Campbell and Jamie Burgess keeping their places after impressive performances. Vanzie, to his credit, did not seem too unhappy, with Fairway making a special point of praising the striker who had taken his chances well. 

Another who had impressed would be teenage prospect Eddie Ryder , who seemed delighted to have been given the opportunity to make his First Team debut, and carried on his good form into the weekend - Jordan Sharvin advising Fairway that he had awarded the 16 year old midfielder Man of the Match as the Under 18's held FC United away on Saturday morning. Ryder laid on Preston's goal - a fine ball into the box which Michael Bywater tucked away from close range. Fairway took the call from Sharvin shortly after arriving at Deepdale, having first been watching the draw for the last 16 of the League Cup - a stage which Preston had never previously progressed beyond. Championship outfit Wolves , at home, would be the opponents, with Fairway hopeful that his side could at least reach the Quarter Finals.

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 24th September 2022

Preston North End 1 - AFC Bournemouth 1

Bournemouth's impressive start to the season was held up as an example for Preston in home manager Stuart Fairway's programme notes, but the visitors failed to impress despite saving a late point to deny Preston a first Premier League win at Deepdale. Too often Bournemouth's one man up front was crowded out by a Preston side who defended deeply but retained a threat of their own, with Yvon Mvogo making a fine save to deny Mykola Kolosov on 10. The Swiss international was often the busier of the two goalkeepers, and did well to save from Jamie Burgess on 14 before being beaten on 21 when, following a weak backpass, Craig Campbell nipped in to poke home from close range. The goal was a reward for Preston's early play, with Matteo Darmian making an important block on 35 from Rico Henry as the hosts pushed for a second. 

An injury in the final minute of the first half saw Juan Daniel Caballero replace Kolosov for the second period, and after Mvogo had again saved his side after Nicky Hughes' dipping strike was tipped over on 58, a change was made which saw the quiet Callum Wilson replaced with Benik Afobe. Afobe seemed more keen to drop deep and link up play, although Bournemouth were again thankful to Mvogo who denied Erland Høiland on 62. With Afobe buzzing around and creating problems, Preston's faliure to add to their tally would, eventually, come back to haunt them - after Samuel Adegbenro had planted a free header over on 82, Bournemouth would equalise on 86. The goal came from Preston's failure to clear their lines - Ro-Shaun Williams and Kean Bryan both missing opportunities to get the ball to safety before Godfred Donsah smashed home off the underside of the crossbar from the edge of the box. The late goal was a kick in the teeth for Preston, and indeed both Donsah and Xian Emmers had chances for the visitors in stoppage time. The point for Preston is a valuable one, but, come May, this is the sort of result that could haunt their attempts to emulate today's opponents. 
Preston; Dawson, Burgess (Fulgini 64), Bowles, Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan, Kolosov (Caballero 45), Hughes, Høiland, Campbell

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Johnson, Michealis, Vanzie

Bournemouth; Mvogo, Darmian, Vestergaard (Caulker 63), Regini, Mendy, McCarthy, Donsah, Arter (Emmers 53), Carillo, Adegbenro, Wilson (Afobe 58)

Unused; Provedel, Midtsjo, Nacho, Schlupp

Referee; R Madley - Attendance; 21,877

Mykola Kolosov would be disappointed, if a little relieved, after the match, with Head Physio Matt Jackson confirming to Fairway that the midfielder had not, as initially feared, sustained a fracture to his ankle, but would still be ruled out for around a month with a bad sprain. The news put something of a downer on Fairway's Saturday evening, with a week's gap until Preston's next game, their final one before the second international break of the season.

The first of the international calls came on Sunday, with Abdulla Al-Yazeedi named in the Qatar squad to take on Australia and Thailand in friendlies, with Fairway knowing that the striker, yet to make an appearance this season, would want to impress in order to cement his place in the international picture ahead of December's WAAF Championships in Oman .

A 2-0 victory for the Under 23's on Tuesday saw goals from Michael Bywater and Moris Sportelli , the defender scoring on his Preston debut to wrap up an always comfortable victory against Barrow , but Fairway would be approached after the game by Tom Coughlan , who was keen to go out on loan. The Irishman, out of contract at the end of the season, had been a useful backup in the Championship, but Fairway felt he needed to take the next step to be considered for a regular Premier League berth, and agreed that a loan move would be sensible. Whilst it would leave Preston a little short in numbers with Kolosov out for the near future, the performances of Eddie Ryder and Nathan Woods for the younger teams suggested to the manager that both could, if needed, be called upon.

Coughlan agreed a loan move to St Mirren for the remainder of the season by Thursday, on a day which would also see international joy - and heartbreak - for several of Preston's stars. Craig Campbell was the big omission, overlooked for a place in the Scotland squad for games against the USA and England , but Nicky Hughes again made the 23 for the games, the first a friendly and the second in the European International League . There would be better news for Steve Michealis , who could take on teammate Al-Yazeedi when Australia hosted Qatar and would also hope to be involved in another home game, against the UAE , whilst Angelo Fulgini 
faced the prospect of competitive trips to Zimbabwe and Angola as the Ivory Coast continued their attempts to qualify for the African Cup of Nations . In the same qualification tournament Mozambique would face Lethoso and Senegal , with Joaquim Manjate an almost certainty to play, and Daniel Johnson would hope to continue his recent goalscoring form for Jamaica against both St Kitts & Nevis and Bermuda in the Carribbean Championships . Juan Daniel Caballero , after omission in late summer, would also make his international return, called up for friendlies against South Korea and Belgium as would Erland Høiland , as Norway hosted Montenegro in a friendly before welcoming Croatia in the European International League. At Under 21 level, Brian Bell and the on loan Marc Paterson would hope to represent Scotland , whilst Coughlan , after his loan move north of the border, would be in the Ireland squad for games against Romania and Lithuania

With Mykola Kolosov injured and unavailable, Fairway arranged for the Goal of the Month trophy to be presented on the pitch ahead of kickoff in a bid to cheer up the injured teenager - Kolosov earning the accolade for his last minute stunner which gave Preston that vital first win - with Nathan Woods stepping up from the Under 23's for a place on the bench in the only change to take on Newcastle United .

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www.bbc.co.uk/football - Saturday 1st October 2022

Preston North End 1 - Newcastle United 2

Newcastle's record signing Marcus Edwards spoke of his pride at earning a first senior international callup in the week, but played second fiddle to his fellow summer arrival, Brazilian Vitinho, as the visitors eased to victory in a game they controlled from the off against Preston. It was the hosts who started the brighter, with Erland Høiland seeing a shot blocked by Hadyn Clarke inside the opening minute, before Craig Campbell drew a flying save from Ionut Radu on 6. A minute later, Campbell came even closer, crashing a free kick against the woodwork from the edge of the area, before sending another over the top on 12, but Preston would be made to rue their wastefulness when Newcastle took the lead on 25, Ro-Shaun Williams deflecting a Andrija Zivkovic drive past his own 'keeper. If the goal was against the early run of play, Newcastle used it as a springboard, with Williams hacking off the line on 31 from Denzel Cijntje's cross before Achraf Lazaar saw his effort pushed to safety on 43.

Newcastle's second was unstoppable, with Vitinho given space to lay the ball across the edge of the box for Steve Godden to rifle the ball into the roof of the net. Having lost their way since the positive opening spell, Preston then came close to pulling one back with Campbell outjumping Clarke to head goalwards on 57, with Radu well placed to hold, before Denis Zakaria's weak pass was almost punished on 73 when Steve Michealis went for placement rather than power and dinked a shot just wide of the post. Preston did pull one back on 81 - Zakaria again involved, although this time not at fault, as his slide tackle prevented Nicky Hughes from pulling the trigger, only to see Steve Michealis beat 'keeper Radu to the loose ball to fire home from close range. It would spark something of a comeback - Angelo Fulgini shooting into the side netting from the angle when a cross would have been the better option, before Edwards cleared from the line after Sam Bowles had headed goalwards from a Hughes corner. Newcastle should have had a third - Nemanja Matic driving from his own area as the Magpies broke quickly, with Cameron Dawson making an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar. Heading into the International break, Preston sit second bottom - and despite another capacity crowd at Deepdale, it will take more than this if they are to hold on to their Premier League status.
Preston; Dawson, Burgess (Fulgini 67), Bowles, Williams, Burn (c), Henry, Bryan, Caballero, Hughes (Johnson 88), Høiland, Campbell (Michealis 67)

Unused; Bell, Manjate, Woods, Vanzie

Newcastle; Radu, Cijntje, Clarke, Conti, Lazaar (Letschert 81), Zakaria, Mendy (Matic 78), Zivkovic (Little 83), Edwards, Vitinho, Gooden

Unused; Sels, Mariano, Knockaert, Benteke

Referee; G Scott - Attendance; 23,404

Fairway waved several of his squad off on international duty on Sunday before spending time in the afternoon going through scouting reports. Whilst his side's league position was a concern, he knew that, with 31 games remaining and plenty of points still to play for, there would be plenty of opportunities to turn the situation around. With late summer turning into autumn, thoughts were also turning towards the January transfer window, but with the bulk of his transfer budget having been spent in the summer, Fairway knew he would be limited in his options. 

One player who would not break the bank however would be MK Dons left wingback Patrick Baucutt-Cain , a 16 year old rated highly by scout Geoff Taylor , who had been watching the player for several months. A fee of £100,000 was quickly agreed, with Fairway also offering to send a side to Stadium:MK in the summer, and talks with the teenager and his parents also progressed well, with the manager leaving them to consider the offer over the next few days.

Wednesday's international games saw a mixed bag for Preston's players, with Joaquim Manjate keeping a clean sheet as Mozambique breezed past Lethoso 3-0, and Steve Michealis scoring for Australia in a 3-0 win over a Qatar side containing Abdulla Al-Yazeedi . In South America, Juan Daniel Caballero played just 14 minutes as a sub as Paraguay went down 1-0 to South Korea , whilst Daniel Johnson received a red card as Jamaica edged out St Kitts & Nevis to win a nervy game 1-0 in Basseterre. By far the best news though came for Nicky Hughes , who finally made his full Scotland debut in a 2-1 win over the USA . Although he only played 58 minutes of the friendly, Hughes impressed, with Fairway delighted for the midfielder. In the Under 21 internationals on Thursday, Scotland fell to defeat against Portugal with Marc Paterson getting some time off the bench and Brian Bell an unused sub, whilst Tom Coughlan was taken off in the first half after a lacklustre display for Ireland in a 2-1 defeat to Romania

The following day, as England beat Greece 1-0 through a Raheem Sterling strike, Fairway was still none the wiser as to the future of Baucutt-Cain, with the player keen to take his time over the decision on his future.

Edited by displaced_seagull

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Eddie Ryder's star continued to rise on Saturday, with a superb display in front of his watching manager as the Under 18's cruised past Oldham 3-0, with Ryder providing an assist as Paul King and Sonny Massey put North End ahead in the first half before a late own goal added a third to cap a fine performance. The rest of the weekend proved quiet for Preston's manager with just the news from Africa, where Joaquim Manjate and his Mozambique side went down 2-0 to Senegal , whilst Angelo Fulgini claimed an assist as Ivory Coast took a big step towards qualification with a 3-1 win over Angola

The Monday Under 21 internationals saw a return for Brian Bell to the Scotland fold in a 4-0 win over San Marino , but it was Marc Paterson who was the star, laying on one of the goals. Tom Coughlan returned to form with a much improved performance in a 2-0 win for Ireland against Lithuania , whilst Nathan Woods operated in an unfamiliar role just off a lone striker as the USA held Italy 1-1 in an Under 20's international. 

The big news on Tuesday would be the clash between the oldest international sides, with England putting in a good performance to beat Scotland 2-0 thanks to first half goals from Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling , with Nicky Hughes a disappointed, and unused, substitute at Wembley. On the other side of the world, Steve Michealis toiled without success as Australia were slightly fortunate to beat minnows UAE 1-0, whilst Qatar were held 2-2 by Thailand in Doha, with Abdulla Al-Yazeedi again somewhat subdued. Juan Daniel Caballero , meanwhile, added to his caps as a late sub as Paraguay went down 2-0 to Belgium , but closer to home Fairway was delighted when, late in the evening, he was informed by a slightly nervous but clearly delighted teenage voice that Patrick Barcutt-Cain had agreed to sign for North End, with the move going through in January.

Fairway broke the news to the remainder of the staff on Wednesday, as he, along with Mark Morrison , travelled to Bury where the Under 21's drew 1-1 - an own goal giving Preston the lead before they were pegged back in the second half. Before travelling back, the small party of backroom staff just made it to another game, arriving two minutes after kickoff but still in time to see another who had been earmarked by Taylor as a potential star, Rochdale's Martin Jamieson , score twice in a 2-1 win for his side. A 17 year old striker playing above his age group, Jamieson shone, with Fairway immediately getting on the phone to head scout Leon Hunter to arrange for the teenager to be watched in the coming weeks.

With his players back from overseas in time for training on Thursday, Fairway was pleased to see that, despite defeat against Newcastle , the mood was still fairly good ahead of the visit of West Ham on Sunday, although Jamie Burgess limped out of the session with blistered feet, leaving Fairway unsure as to if he would be available for Saturday. By Saturday teatime, as other results saw North End remain 19th after Crystal Palace contrived to score two own goals to go down 3-2 to Manchester United , the news on Burgess would be confirmed, with the player fit enough for a place on the bench, with Angelo Fulgini restored to the starting eleven in the only change.

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