FC Halifax Town 1-2 Preston

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FC Halifax Town lost for the first time in pre-season as they were beaten 2-1 by Preston North End at the Shay.

Goals from Andy Little and Josh Brownhill put Preston into a comfortable lead before Ross Dyer halved it on the stroke of half-time.

Although Halifax didn’t find an equaliser, they can take encouragement at a battling display against a highly-impressive Preston outfit.

If pre-season is anything to go by, Preston should take six points off both Rochdale and Barnsley in League One next season.

On this evidence, Neil Aspin and Simon Grayson fostered a similar footballing philosophy in their time together at Leeds as both sides produced some neat, incisive play in the opening exchanges.

But, understandably, Preston’s passing and movement was superior as Town found the ball coming back at them at regular intervals.

You could hear the ping in the press box when Neil Kilkenny’s stunning strike came back off the post from 25 yards.

That was the stand-out moment of a first 20 minutes largely dominated by Preston without ever having Town on the ropes.

Even tigerish stand-in captain Matt Pearson was mostly consigned to a watching brief as Preston displayed the kind of confidence on the ball that earned them a play-off spot in League One last season.

A free-kick straight from the training ground then paid dividends as the ball was played short to Paul Gallagher, with Little heading in after Matt Glennon had parried Gallgher’s shot.

The duo then combined minutes later only for Little to volley over after a superb dinked pass by the outstanding Gallagher.

What Town did to Grimsby at home and Barnet away last season, Preston were now doing to them as they swarmed around Town in style and a delightful passing move culminated in Brownhill sweeping the ball across Glennon from 20 yards.

It was quickly developing into a duel between the Town keeper and the increasingly influential Gallagher, who was twice denied as the visitors threatened to move out of sight.

But Dyer’s close range header from Scott Boden’s cross just before the interval kept the away side within touching distance.

Town switched to a 3-5-2 after the restart and competed much better in a far more even second-half.

A ferocious but fair tackle by Pearson on the halfway line emphasised Town’s more combative approach as they started winning the ball off a Preston team lacking the rhythym of their first-half exploits; if Preston had moved down a gear then Town had certainly shifted up one.

A rare stray pass from Preston then let in Boden but his shot was well saved by Jamie Jones down to his left.

A tiring home side, apart from the machine-like Pearson, were mainly restricted to efforts from Marc Roberts’ long-throws as the game wore on, although Boden could have snatched a draw with the last touch of the game but his header was saved at point blank range.

Halifax: Glennon, K Roberts, M Roberts, Williams (Ainge 46), McManus, Smith (Maynard 46), Marshall, Pearson, A Trialist (A Trialist 46), Dyer (Bolton 46), Boden. Subs not used: Senior, Marie, Hibbs.

Scorer: Dyer (44)

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 2

Preston: Stuckmann, Woods, Clarke, Wright, Buchanan, King, Kilkenny, Brownhill, Little, Davies, Gallagher. Subs: Jones, Laird, Keane, Welsh, Hayhurst, Garner, Davies, Wiseman.

Scorer: Little (29), Brownhill (37)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 5

Attendance: 813

Town man of the match: Matt Pearson