Preston North End joined the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and local rivals Burnley in the hat for the last 16 of the Carabao Cup with a comfortable 3-1 success over League One outfit Cheltenham Town.
Goals from Andrew Hughes, Joe Rafferty, Sean Maguire and Emil Riis saw the Lilywhites run out as winners over Michael Duff’s side in which they were on top in for the majority of the 90 minutes.
The early moments of the match were marred by an injury to new North End recruit Connor Wickham, who has had to deal with many injury setbacks over the years.
Wickham pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury after just a few minutes and had to be withdrawn in place of Sean Maguire.
Maguire got into the action on 20 minutes as he played a delicate lofted ball into the path of the prolific Emil Riis, whose chest down seemed to be good but he took a wild swing with his left foot and completely sliced the ball.
It was Joe Rafferty who first tested Cheltenham goalkeeper Owen Evans though on 24 minutes, with the stopper having to parry the wing-backs low right-footed drive to safety, but from the resulting corner came the opening goal.
Ben Whiteman’s delivery was teasing and it was powered home by the head of Andrew Hughes who rose highest to give the Lilywhites the lead.
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That lead was doubled on 37 minutes after a spell where North End were on the receiving end of some rough tackles which saw Liam Lindsay go off injured and both Dylan Barkers and Conor Thomas booked.
Greg Cunningham’s cross was inch-perfect for Rafferty at the back post from wing back to wing back and via a nick off an opposition defender the ball found its way into the back of the net.
It could easily have been more than two though as Cunningham and Whiteman both had close calls for North End, who were dominating their opposition from the league below.
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The visitors weren’t going to just lie down though and they reduced the arrears on 56 minutes when substitute Kyle Vassell made an immediate impact by firing into the roof of the net from close range.
Cheltenham didn’t threaten much in the next period of the game but neither did North End until around the 78th minute when Riis was set through on goal following a goal kick from Declan Rudd, but a fantastic goal-saving challenge from Mattie Pollock denied the Dane.
North End would only have to wait a few more minutes to get that third goal though and it was a first of the season for Sean Maguire, who held up Joe Rafferty’s cross and turned his marker before firing the ball under the body of Evans.
Cheltenham didn’t give up though as Vassell nearly doubled his tally for the game moments later as he outmuscled Sepp van den Berg before rounding Declan Rudd, but he was squeezed out of an attempt on goal before he could get one off.
The action wasn’t done though as pretty much with the final kick of the game, Emil Riis got his seventh goal of the season by firing a thunderbolt into the bottom corner to seal the victory and PNE’s passage into the last 16.
FULL TIME: Preston North End 4-1 Cheltenham Town