Match report: PNE 3 Cardiff City 0

Preston North End manager Alex Neil was correct in his pre-match chat when forecasting that his side were facing Cardiff City and not Real Madrid.

The Welsh outfit’s super start to the season – five wins and a draw – had some fearing their visit to Deepdale.

While acknowledging those opening results, Neil was also at pains to point out that this is the Championship and everyone is capable of beating each other – hence his line in Monday’s press conference ‘it is Cardiff City we are playing, not Real Madrid’.

So it proved as North End clipped the Bluebirds’ wings in some style, scoring three fine goals.

Josh Harrop and Sean Maguire found the net before Alan Browne upstaged them all with a finish anyone in a Madrid shirt would have been proud of.

When a shanked clearance from visiting goalkeeper Neil Etheridge fell to him in the centre-circle, Browne returned it first-time over him and into the net.

Although we are only in September, I suspect it will be in the voting for goal of the season in eight months time.

The Lilywhites were fully deserving of the victory, the scoreline tells you that.

Harrop’s first goal in PNE shirt set the ball rolling late in the first half, his free-kick from more than 25 yards finding the bottom corner.

It was a lead doubled in the 70th minute as Maguire danced past a couple of challenges before finding the net from a tight angle.

Step forward Browne to steal the show and cap a fine performance in the engine room.

Neil had made three changes to the side which had drawn with Barnsley last Saturday, Harrop, Ben Davies and John Welsh coming into the starting XI.

It was Welsh’s first start since last October, his first-team return having come as a substitute in the Barnsley game.

North End were in their usual 4-2-3-1 system, Harrop playing the No.10 role behind Jordan Hugill, with Maguire on the right and Tom Barkhuizen down the left.

The first-half performance from the home side was bright to say the least – even brighter than Cardiff’s luminous green shirts.

Maguire’s early low shot was spilled by Etheridge, while Paul Huntington’s free-kick was headed on by Hugill to find Josh Earl on the left of the box, his cross cleared out of the six-yard box.

In the 11th minute, Maguire’s pass released Hugill down the left channel, the striker getting into the box and getting away a low angled drive which Etheridge dived to palm away – Maguire’s follow-up blocked at the far post.

Cardiff had a couple of chances, Kenneth Zohore shooting wide from outside the box, then a Joe Ralls effort hit Davies and looped behind for a corner.

At the other end, Davies connected with a Harrop corner but sent a header just wide of the back post.

Harrop gave North End the lead seven minutes before the interval with a quality finish.

When Sol Bamba went over the top of Hugill as they challenged in the air, referee Oliver Langford awarded a free-kick 25 yards out to the left of goal.

Harrop gave himself a good run up and hit it right-footed, the free-kick staying low as he flashed past the wall and nestled into the far bottom corner of the net.

Chances followed in quick succession for PNE, with Hugill lifting a shot too high from the edge of the box and then Maguire headed straight at the keeper after meeting Barkhuizen’s cross.

In the run-up to half-time, Harrop sent a 20-yard shot too high after Maguire’s industry had carved out the opening.

A minute into added-on time at the end of the first period, Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw-in bounced through to Bamba unmarked in the box but he could only poke a weak shot at Chris Maxwell.

A swift attack through midfield saw Preston go close to stretching their advantage in the 53rd minute, Browne winning a challenge in the centre-circle to start it off.

Harrop played it to Barkhuizen who slipped a pass to Darnell Fisher in the box, the right-back checking inside and hitting a low shot which Etheridge got down to save.

With an hour played, Huntington put a header too high after getting on the end of Harrop’s corner.

Two minutes later Hugill chased the ball out to the left-wing and sent over a fine cross which found Barkhuizen, but the winger put his header the wrong side of the far post.

PNE’s second goal arrived in the 70th minute, Maguire’s persistence paying off in abundance.

Barkhuizen won possession and slipped a pass through the defence to find Maguire just inside the box.

The Irishman skipped past a couple of tackles as he tried to dig the ball out of his feet and get a shot away, before finding the net with a shot between the keeper and near post from quite a tight angle.

Nine minutes later, Browne stole the limelight with an early contender for goal of the season.

Etheridge shanked a kicked clearance on the edge of his box, the ball falling to Browne in the centre-circle who lifted a first-time shot goalwards and over the back-pedalling keeper who flapped at it on the line but couldn’t prevent it going in.

PNE: Maxwell, Fisher (Woods 80), Huntington, Davies, Earl, Welsh, Browne (Gallagher 86), Barkhuizen, Maguire (Horgan 86), Harrop, Hugill. Subs (not used): Spurr, Mavididi, Robinson, Hudson.

Cardiff: Etheridge, Peltier, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett, Ralls, Gunnarssson, Mendez-Laing, Damour (Tomlin 63), Hoilett (Feeney 63), Zohore (Ward 79). Subs (not used): Ecuele-Manga, Richards, Bryson, Murphy.

Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)

Attendance: 10,796 (363 away)

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Adam Lord’s PNE Press View: Standing up to big boys on and off the field

In a tough opening five games of the Championship season Preston North End have sent a message that they mean business on the field.

Alex Neil’s side have played on the front foot against some of the second tier’s big-hitters and picked up eight points to make it a fine start for the new man in charge.

Over the last week, the Lilywhites showed they mean business off the field too.

In the face of almost unprecedented, for PNE at least, interest in their prize asset, the club stood firm, and hung a not for sale sign prominently around Jordan Hugill’s neck.

Reading’s £8 million offer, that would have been a record sale, and interest from Wovles, Birmingham and Sunderland ultimately came to nothing with the No.9 still a Preston player when the window slammed shut, sorry I had to, at 11pm on Thursday night.

There wasn’t just pressure from other clubs.

The player himself made headlines on Tuesday by handing in a transfer request, that like the bids for his services was swiftly refused.

It came on the back of offers, of far lower value admittedly, being rejected for Greg Cunningham and Callum Robinson.

Not only does it show Preston, who continue to be viewed as one of the smaller clubs in the division, won’t be pushed around but it also demonstrates that there is ambition at Deepdale this season.

After back-to-back 11th-placed finishes under Simon Grayson a new manager who has been promoted to the Premier League has arrived and is only looking one way.

He’s not going to make any wild predictions. That’s not Neil’s style.

But there’s a quiet confidence around Springfields when we are allowed in for press conferences.

And the manager’s declaration when asked about interest in players last Saturday that North End wanted “to try and achieve something this season” has been backed up by those on high in the days that followed.

Message received, loud and clear.

It’s at this juncture however that I’ll change tact.

There are most definitely two sides to this argument and while the above is more in line with my thinking I certainly see where other supporters are coming from.

In keeping Hugill, there is a risk that Neil has a player on his hands who doesn’t want to be at the club.

A calculated gamble has been made that Preston will still get the same endeavour from their front man that they’ve seen in the opening weeks of the season.

With three goals to his name, the 25-year-old has led the line supremely despite all the hullabaloo going on around him.

Granted, handing in a transfer request is a new low in the relationship between player and club and only time will tell if PNE have rolled the dice and come up with a six.

The other argument is that £8 million was more than ample for a player who has had one good season in the Championship under his belt.

That may be the case, although I’d probably argue it’s about the going rate given some of the exorbitant fees that were doing the rounds on Thursday evening.

The issue was not so much the money, it would have surpassed the £6 million Portsmouth paid for David Nugent as a club record, but what chance there would have been to reinvest it.

Sure PNE would have had contingencies but they wouldn’t have wanted to take an unnecessary risk in the transfer market when they didn’t have to. Better the devil you know and all that.

The club would also have been breaking new ground, the incoming transfer record still the £1.5 million paid for David Healy nearly 17 years ago.

It was taking a step back that led to no new signings being made on deadline day, the depatures of Eoin Doyle and Liam Grimshaw the only done deals at Deepdale.

I know that was also something that some fans were less than impressed with.

As I understand it, Neil would have liked some more strength in depth, as he indicated earlier in the month and after the draw at Middlesbrough.

North End had a look around and couldn’t find the right player at the right price however.

Given the start made and the fact all their key men were staying put, Neil was seemingly happy to stand a safe distance from the frenzy elsewhere, backing his players to do the job between now and at least January 1 when the window re-opens.

The manager has had plenty of encouragement in recent weeks and despite saying it would be good to give his squad “a hand” with a new recruit of two he has seen the likes of Josh Earl come in and prove what quality there is outside the established starting XI.

Only time will tell if Preston are a couple of players short as some have asserted.

That’s all done now though and minds will soon turn to next Saturday and Barnsley’s trip to Deepdale.

Call me old fashioned. But can we talk about football now?

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Getting to Deepdale for PNE match days just got easier

A number of dedicated match day shuttle buses have been announced by Preston North End.

Preston Bus has a number of dedicated services but the club has teamed up with Tyrers to help those to the south of Preston get to Deepdale.

All the Tyrers services will be a 72-seater bus and prices are £3 for a single fare and £4 for a return.

The routes begin from Saturday (19 August) home game against Reading.

PNE says the routes are a trial and will be reviewed and potentially changed subject to popularity.

Route One – Tesco in Leyland:

3pm kick-off: Departs from Tesco bus stop A at 1.30pm for Deepdale
7.45pm kick-off: Departs from Tesco bus stop A at 6.15pm for Deepdale

Route Two – Railway Pub in Leyland:

3pm kick-off: Departs from the bus stop opposite the Railway Pub, outside Perrys Vauxhall, at 1.30pm for Deepdale
7.45pm kick-off: Departs from the bus stop opposite the Railway Pub, outside Perrys Vauxhall, at 6.15pm for Deepdale

Route Three – Lostock Hall:

3pm kick-off: Departs from The Victoria bus stop at 1.25pm then on to Withy Arms, Station Road bus stop, departing at 1.35pm for Deepdale.
7pm kick-off: Departs from The Victoria bus stop at 6.10pm then on to Withy Arms, Station Road bus stop, departing at 6.20pm for Deepdale.
Please note the service is unable to stop at the Pleasant Retreat/SPAR stop as the bus will need to be in the right hand lane at the lights to make the turn into Brownedge Road.

Route Four – Chorley:

3pm kick-off: Departs from Booths, Chorley (Union Street) at 1.15pm, on to Bay Horse Whittle le Woods departing at 1.25pm, then the Former Pines Hotel departing at 1.28pm for Deepdale
7.45pm kick-off: Departs from Booths, Chorley (Union Street) at 6pm, on to Bay Horse Whittle le Woods departing at 6.10pm, then the Former Pines Hotel departing at 6.13pm for Deepdale

Route Five – Preston Train Station:

3pm kick-off: Departing Preston Train Station from Fishergate stand A at 1.30pm and 2.15pm
7.45pm kick-off: Departing Preston Train Station from Fishergate stand A at 6.15pm and 7pm

In addition to the above services, Preston Bus will continue to run their services from Lea and Cottam to Deepdale. Details of these services can be found below.

3pm Kick-Offs:

287 from Lea, Aldfield Avenue departing at 2pm, then Lane Ends at 2.05pm then direct to Deepdale.
289 from Cottam, Ancient Oak at 2pm, then Cottam Way at 2.02pm, Tanterton Hall Road/Guild Merchant at 2.05pm, Ingol Post Office at 2.08pm, Lane Ends at 2.12pm then direct to Deepdale.

7.45pm Kick-Offs:

287 from Lea, Aldfield Avenue departing at 7pm, then Lane Ends at 7.05pm then direct to Deepdale.
289 from Cottam, Ancient Oak at 7pm, then Cottam Way at 7.02pm, Tanterton Hall Road/Guild Merchant at 7.05pm, Ingol Post Office at 7.08pm, Lane Ends at 7.12pm then direct to Deepdale.
Both services will pick up at all bus stops along the route.

Fares for all journeys on both Preston Bus services above are £1 single and £2 return. Child fares are 80p single and £1.50 return. Pensioner and disabled NOW cards are valid for free travel.

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Preston boss Alex Neil has mixed feelings over Derby penalty

Alex Neil had mixed feelings about the penalty that led to Preston North End’s 1-0 defeat at Derby on Tuesday night.

Matej Vydra’s spot kick just before the hour mark saw the Lilywhites slip to a first Championship defeat of the season.

Paul Huntington was the guilty party, hauling back Curtis Davies as Tom Huddlestone’s corner was sent into the penalty area.

North End had been previously warned by referee Geoff Eltringham about holding but were made to pay.

“The penalty’s a difficult one,” Neil said.

“Everyone’s pulling about and scrambling and pulling back.

“People are jostling for position and you don’t want to let your marker away from you.

“I’ve talked about getting touch tight and making sure nobody gets away from you.

“At times you can overstep the mark and that’s deemed to have been the case tonight.

“It’s one of them where I’ve seen them given and seen them bypassed.

“I’m not suggesting we were harshly done by.

“The disappointing thing for me is that linesmen seem to get involved when and if they chose to.

“It’s frustrating and I’m sure every manager up and down the country will be the same.”

As for the game itself, Neil felt his side didn’t do enough in possession at Pride Park, chances limited on a night where Derby were well worth their first win of the season.

“I felt our use of the ball wasn’t as good as it has been,” said the North End boss.

“Certainly in the first half we got into good positions and didn’t make it count.

“They got in good positions and were more threatening which was the story of the game and was disappointing.

“Just after half time Derby put us under pressure for a good 12-15 minutes and we didn’t really cope with it.

“I didn’t think we moved the ball well enough or saw the game out.”

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Keeper coach Kelly leaves PNE

Preston North End have announced that goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly has left Deepdale.

The 48-year-old had been North End’s full-time keeper coach since April 2013 but his association with the club goes back all of his life.

The 48-year-old had been North End’s full-time keeper coach since April 2013 but his association with the club goes back all of his life.

He became a full-time coach shortly after Simon Grayson’s arrival in 2013.

North End announced Kelly’s exit in a short statement on their website on Thursday morning.

The statement read: “After a lifetime of association with Preston North End Football Club, both through his father and also Alan’s own playing and coaching career, it is with disappointment, but also grateful thanks for his service that we announce that Alan Kelly has decided that his time as a member of the coaching staff at Preston North End has come to an end.

“This decision is solely Alan’s and he will leave with our thanks and best wishes for the future.

“Alan, his wife Sara and family will always be welcome guests here at Deepdale.”

Kelly had been with the North End squad for their 3-2 defeat at Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night and worked with the keepers at Springfields on Wednesday.

It is understood that academy goalkeeper coach Jack Cudworth will fill Kelly’s role for the time being.

After news of his departure went into the public domain, Kelly tweeted: “I return to the stands as a life long fan & wish our great club every success in the future.

“Thanks to all @pnefc #ProudPreston.”

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Trailblazing Preston footballers honoured at last

They paved the way for women’s football, but over the years have received little recognition or support – not least from the FA, who banned them from pitches, saying that the game was “quite unsuitable for females”.

But 100 years since they were formed, the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC are finally being honoured with a blue plaque.

Formed as a morale-boosting exercise during the First World War, the team became hugely popular, drawing a crowd of 53,000 when they played St Helen’s at Everton’s Goodison Park in 1920.

But their success attracted detractors, and in 1921 the Football Association banned women’s football from being played in FA grounds.

The ban lasted until 1971 and changed the face of women’s football forever.

But on Thursday, the ladies finally achieved the recognition they deserved with a blue plaque – used to mark historic achievements – erected at the Alstom Factory on Strand Road, where the team was formed.

David Taylor, pro-chancellor and chairman of the board at the University of Central Lancashire, which helped organise the plaque, said: “The Dick, Kerr Ladies story is a key part of Preston’s sporting heritage. In our role as a civic university, we are delighted to work alongside Gail and the many other hard working volunteers to highlight and commemorate the amazing achievements of these pioneering women.

“The Dick, Kerr Ladies all came from very traditional working class backgrounds and became the most successful women’s football team in history. For the people who live, work and study in our city, their success is something we should warmly celebrate.

“We have already given our backing to establishing a bronze relief in Preston to further celebrate these amazing sporting trailblazers and look forward to working with Gail on several other events planned this year to mark the Dick, Kerr Ladies centenary year.”

Gail Newsham, author of In a League of Their Own: A History of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC, said: “I have been championing the Dick, Kerr Ladies for 25 years. No other town or city in the world can boast the proud history of this pioneering team. I have always believed in them and been in awe of their success.

“They certainly deserve this long overdue honour. This blue plaque is the first in the world for the best in the world.

“Words cannot express how thrilled I am for them today.”

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Fitzgerald wins at the Guild Hall

Preston boxer Scott Fitzgerald made a triumphant debut at the Guild Hall on Saturday night.

The reigning Commonweath Games champion was far too strong for his Russian opponent Andrej Cepur.

The 25-year-old claimed victory via a fourth-round stoppage in front of raucous home crowd.

It was the first time Fitzgerald had fought in his home town as a professional and he certainly put on a show for an expectant crowd.

The Jennings Gym ace dominated the fight from start to finish as Cepur came under attack from a barrage of shots.

Scott Fitzgerald hands out some punishment to Andrej Cepur

The 30-year-old, who lives in Lithuania, was unable to muster any sort of attack himself as Fitzgerald dominated the centre of the ring.

In the end, the referee brought an end to proceedings in the fourth.

Fitzgerald improved his overall record to six pro wins out of six, with four stoppages.

He also picked up his first belt in the paid ranks – the International Classic Challenge title.

“I kept thinking he was going to go down,” Fitzgerald said.

“I hit him with a few body shots and got him with a few head shots.

“I head him moan and wince a few times, but all credit to him, it was hard to find the gaps.

“It’s nice to get a little title at the Guild Hall, quite a few people came down to watch.”

Meanwhile, fellow Preston fighter Ben Swarbrick had to settle for a draw with Craig Derbyshire after the pair shared the four rounds of their bantamweight contest.

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New PNE training ground reflects club’s Premier League ambitions

It is a training complex fit for the Premier League.

And here for the first time is how Preston North End’s new state- of-the-art facility at Ingol Village Golf Club will look both inside and out.

The striking images illustrate the club’s ambition to return to the top flight of English football after more than half a century in the lower divisions.

Bosses say the new training centre is “imperative” if North End are to fulfil their dream of playing in the big league and competing with the best.

A full application has now gone into the city council for approval, along with plans for up to 450 homes and a large public park – the first to be donated to Preston in more than 100 years.

At the same time, the club has asked Town Hall officials if it needs special approval to flatten the current office block adjacent to the stadium in Sir Tom Finney Way and replace it with extra car parking spaces.

A club spokesman told the Post: “Preston North End Football Club has made tremendous progress over the last few years in both restoring our Championship status and sorting out the financial stability of the club.

“As we push forward in our aim of becoming a Premier League club – a status that would bring substantial financial rewards to the city as a whole – it is imperative that our training facilities are of a standard and quality to enable us to attract and retain the right football talent.

proposed new training ground facility

“The current planning application for a mixed development, including a new training HQ, is fundamental to our ability to achieve our ambitions.

“Once the application is successful and the training HQ built, which we hope will be completed in time for the 2018/19 season, the current administrative building at Deepdale will be demolished to provide additional car parking, which will then allow key personnel to relocate to the new training centre at Ingol.”

According to a planning statement by architects the Frank Whittle Partnership, the proposed development aims to provide PNE with a “high-quality, purpose-built first team training facility in line with the club’s aspirations of playing in a higher tier of English football.”

It says the scheme “will enable the club to continue to evolve the training of its team and encourage growth by providing the needed training space required to attract high-calibre football players.”

Because of the rural nature of the site, the design is intended to “respect and enhance the setting.” The main building will have a curved wildflower green roof to blend in with the landscape.

PNE manager Simon Grayson said when the plans were first unveiled: “It speaks volumes for the club that we’re trying to keep on moving forward year in, year out.

“We’ve got some good facilities at Springfields but trying to get even more modern ones can only help.

“Your facilities at this level have to be very good because the players are here for 10 months of the season and it can only help attract new players as well so hopefully we’ll get the go-ahead to do it and we can get in there very quickly.

“It’s really pleasing we’re moving forward as a club and hopefully this can develop.”

The training complex will occupy 25-acres of a 172-acre site.

The rest of the land will form a new public park – twice the size of Avenham Park and the first to be gifted to the city in more than 100 years – in addition to the new housing development.

Under government guidelines, the city council will only be able to give planning permission if it can be demonstrated the golf course is surplus to requirements in the Preston area where there are 14 other courses within a 20-minute drive.

A Golf Needs Assessment study, which forms part of the application, has concluded that the club, which has suffered a 34 per cent drop in membership in the past two years, is not needed.

Artist's impression of PNE's new training complex

New training centre

Preston is planning on splashing out millions to give Simon Grayson and his senior squad the very best facilities to prepare for an assault on the Premier League.

The plans submitted to the council show the complex will have everything the players need on one site, together with accommodation for some of the club’s admin staff.

The development includes a full-size grass training pitch, a floodlit full-size hybrid pitch, two slightly smaller grass pitches and two five-a-side pitches. It also has a 61-metre by 43-metre indoor artificial grass pitch.

There will be a one kilometre trim trail and cycle track and a gymnasium with adjacent treatment room and physiotherapy office.

The changing room will have interconnected showers and toilets, with a treatment ice bath and jacuzzi. There will be additional changing rooms for visitors, officials and coaches.

The complex will have a dining and relaxation room, match analysis/team meeting room, manager’s and assistant manager’s office, a coaches and analytical staff office and a boot room, laundry room, kit room and equipment store.

The scheme also provides a home for most of the club’s admin team, with an open plan office, four private offices, a meeting room and kitchen, staff room and archive, storage and print rooms.

There will be space for 40 cars, room for 10 cycles and a site maintenance building and yard. The whole complex will be surrounded by a 2.4-metre high fence and access will be via a security gatehouse.

Office block demolition

PNE admin staff are to lose their office base next door to the Deepdale Stadium if plans for demolition are approved.

The club intends to relocate most of its staff into purpose-built accommodation at the new training complex in Ingol and bulldoze the old office block to make way for extra car parking spaces.

The staff have worked from the existing single-storey building on Sir Tom Finney Way since the club took over the former snooker club and Legends nightclub around 15 years ago.

At one time the building housed the Preston North End Supporters Club and also a snooker hall.

More recently the premises were shared by the club’s admin offices and the PNE shop which moved into the main stadium building last July.

Demolition is planned after the completion of the new training centre.

Staff will be relocated to Ingol, with a small number of the workforce being accommodated in the Deepdale Stadium itself.

Springfields training ground

North End’s current training ground at Lea will continue to be used by the club after the first team have moved out to Ingol.

The club’s youth academy will remain at Springfields in Dodney Drive.

A statement to the planning committee says the need to move the senior squad to the purpose-built facility at the golf club is because the Lea site is unable to be brought up to the level required.

“The need to relocate from Springfields Sports Ground is due to space constraints at the current facility and what is needed to be delivered in order to provide a training facility of the highest standard,” says the report.

“Springfields is tightly constrained by Savick Brook to the north and residential dwellings to the south. The land itself is within Flood Zone 3 which places a constraint on future development. The neighbouring land has been considered, but is not readily available and is also constrained by similar flood risks.”

Ingol village golf club

The 25-acre training centre will occupy land currently used for holes 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the golf course.

PNE owner Trevor Hemmings bought the club in 1985, but in recent years it has struggled to attract members and closed in 2010.

The plans have proved controversial with locals.

The Ingol Golf Residents Association held a public meeting on February 23 at Preston Grasshoppers

Nearly 200 people from the surrounding areas in Ingol and Fulwood voiced their anger against the latest proposals. A raft of objections has already been submitted to Preston City Council.

Chairman of IGVRA Bruce Ellison said the group were angry with the plans to build 450 homes on the current Ingol Golf Club to help fund the training facility and labelled the move as ‘underhand.’

He said: “I’m exceedingly disappointed following two planning enquiries and refusal of the plans to see a third one put in.

“These latest plans go against everything the National Policy Framework, the Central Lancashire Strategy and Preston City Council’s own local plan.

“The people who buy these ‘proposed’ homes will be paying for a training facility they will have no access to.”

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#whitetowel – Match report and final thoughts

Tony Bellew beats David Haye!

Haye manages to land a right hand and remind the crowd that he is still dangerous, but a moment later he throws himself through a high left jab, misses, and falls to the floor. He gets to his feet but finally Bellew hits Haye down to the floor! He falls out of the ring and through the ropes, and tries to pull himself to his feet as the referee counts, but can barely get there. As he finally stands, his corner throw in the towel!

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Haye was crouched against the ropes as Bellew landed a left hand to the top of the head which finally put the 36-year-old down. The victor shakes off his promoter and trainer to embrace his opponent. A left hook to the side of the head was the final blow for Haye. Bellew said Haye’s physical ailments would catch up with him and he was proved right. Both fighters embrace at the end of the fight, Bellew knows he has taken out a sitting duck there. Haye feel through the ropes, and may have just got back up before the count but his corner threw in the towel. Bellew in tears. That is surely one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history.

Tony Bellew stopped a hobbling David Haye in the 11th round to ruin the former world champion’s return to the ring and shock the boxing world.

Bellew capitalised on Haye’s inability to move properly after he seemed to suffer a leg injury midway through the fight. Haye looked unbalanced and at times struggled to defend himself, but managed to hang in the fight despite hitting the canvas a number of times.

The Evertonian ground him down though and could eventually celebrate when Haye’s corner threw in the towel in the 11th round.

The buildup had been dominated by an ugly war of words but the fighters warmly embraced at the end of the bout.

Pre match reports

David Haye says he will provide “a real destruction job” against Tony Bellew on Saturday, who says he wants to win “by any means necessary”.

The coming together of David Haye and Tony Bellew on the first day of their fight week went off without a hitch  in Liverpool, but the pair were kept apart by a sturdy phalanx of security men, most of whom were a good deal bigger than the two warring heavyweights.

Contrary to expectation, no steel fence was in place to keep the pair apart, five days before they meet at the O2 Arena in London in one of the most hateful grudge matches in British boxing history.

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Fitzy all set to fulfil childhood ambition

Scott Fitzgerald will realise a childhood dream when he boxes at the iconic Guild Hall in his home city of Preston later this month.

The 25-year-old star will be the headline act on the show which takes place on Saturday, March 11.

Billed as ‘The Homecoming’ – it will be the first time Fitzgerald has fought on home soil since gloriously winning gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

And boasting a formidable and growing fan-base, the Jennings Gym-trained star can look forward to a packed-out Guild Hall for his sixth professional fight.

“When I was 13 or 14-years old before I started boxing myself, I remember going to watch some of the shows that they used to hold at the Guild Hall,” said Fitzgerald, who has yet to discover the identity of his opponent.

“Even if they were just amateur events, I always remember them being really good shows with great atmospheres.

“They then stopped holding boxing shows at the Guild Hall for a while, so it’s special for me to be given the chance to top the bill there as a professional.

“We’ve sold quite a lot of tickets – it’s going to be packed out.

“It’s going to be great to box in front of a home crowd and so many friends and family.”

Fitzgerald was ringside at the Guild Hall in January for the middleweight showdown between Preston’s Mick Hall and Blackpool’s Jack Arnfield and he was impressed with the set-up.

“I was at the Arnfield-versus-Hall fight the other week and I thought it was a great atmosphere,” he said.

“I really enjoyed it and hopefully it will be like that when I fight there.

“It’a a great venue for boxing – nice and intimate – so I am really buzzing about it, I can’t wait to get going now.”

Since turning pro at the back end of 2015, Fitzgerald has won all five of his fights in the paid ranks.

However, his lasting outing against Adam Jones at the Liverpool Arena was far from straightforward after he was sent to the canvas in the third round before eventually securing victory.

“I wouldn’t say I was pleased with my performance, but I was happy to get through the fight,” said Fitzgerald. “It was the kick up the backside that I needed.

“It made me realise that everybody has got two arms and two legs and can have a go.

“Looking back at the fight, I still won every round apart from the one that I got put down in.”

Also appearing on the bill at the Guild Hall is a host of local talent, including Ben Swarbrick, Shakeeb Ali, Adam Simpson, Jack Cullen and Ryan Davies.

For tickets – which are priced between £40 and £100 – please contact 07708372832.

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