Fleetwood Town 4 Preston North End 0

Ryan Crowther opens the scoring for Fleetwood
Ryan Crowther opens the scoring for Fleetwood
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Four goals, a red card and victory over League One Preston North End – welcome back to Saturdays at Highbury.

The sun shone on Nathan Pond’s testimonial game and on the side he was captaining for the day, after he took the field with a guard of honour made up of former team-mates and including old boss Tony Greenwood.

As might be expected it was the League One side who imposed themselves early on, Town on the back foot, Pond made to work at the heart of defence on his big occasion.

But it was Fleetwood who were first to test a keeper from a free-kick, Steven Schumacher curling a shot which was saved by Declan Rudd.

North End upped the pressure, Tom Clarke and Chris Humphrey combining down the right, the cross just too deep as Fleetwood cleared.

But gradually Fleetwood found a foothold, Jamille Matt almost finding a way behind the Lilywhites, Paul Huntington nicking the ball off the toes of the advancing striker. Town had more luck through Junior Brown, the winger twisting and turning as Fleetwood knocked at the door.

They should have gone ahead when Matt brushed aside a pair of Preston defenders, charging into the box he pulled the ball back for Jeff Hughes, his bullet somehow kept out.

Back came North End, Fleetwood with one of their trademark defensive scrambles, Joe Garner’s shot setting the woodwork rocking.

The teams were trading blows – quite literally, as Schumacher and Garner clashed in the middle of the park, a kick earning the Preston man his marching orders, a raised hand from the Fleetwood man missed in the fracas.

Town were a man up and a goal up before the break, a deep cross from the right difficult for North End to clear, Ryan Crowther taking advantage of space at the back post to rifle the ball home on 36 minutes.

North End made five changes at the break and this almost paid off immediately when Jack King’s cross found Keith Keane, his blast almost putting a hole in the side-netting.

At the other end the Lilywhites were made to pay. Brown found Antoni Sarcevic, the former Chester man moving the ball quickly to the feet of Crowther.

His first shot blocked, the Fleetwood winger wouldn’t be denied, a low blast securing his second and doubling Fleetwood’s advantage three minutes after the restart.

Preston were struggling, fortune once again against them when Lee Holmes tangled with McLaughin inside the Fleetwood box, the whistle blew but only to award Town a free-kick.

Lady luck was camped firmly inside the North End half, a fortunate deflection starting the move for Town’s third. Schumacher’s shot fell neatly to the feet of Sarcevic, who produced a sublime finish from 20 yards, curling the ball in off the post on 64 minutes.

Town were dominant, substitute David Ball twice going close, first with a shot defleted over after some neat work from Brown, then with a header on to the crossbar from a corner.

A fourth came just over 10 minutes from time, Schumacher shaping to shoot from long range, the mother of all deflections wrong-footing Rudd, Town’s victory sealed.

There was just time for a brief cameo by former North Ender Jon Parkin who straight away put his physical presence to good use, forcing another save from the Preston keeper.

And there was a curtain call for Pond, four minutes from the end, Highbury rising to acknowledge his decade in a Town shirt.

Fleetwood: Davies, Roberts, Pond (Hogan 86), Schumacher (Parkin 80), Matt (Ball 69), Hughes, Brown, McLaughlin, Sarcevic, Crowther, Jordan; notused: Beeley, Howell, Murdoch, Goodall, Blair, Lucas Att: 1,889