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Frankie McAvoy admits Preston struggled after Connor Wickham’s debut injury

Preston North End v Watford – Sky Bet Championship – Deepdale
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Frankie McAvoy admitted Preston were rattled by debutant Connor Wickham’s early injury but recovered to beat Cheltenham 4-1 in the Carabao Cup.

The Deepdale faithful only saw the striker, a new signing from Crystal Palace, for seven minutes before he limped off the pitch and that threatened to disrupt his side’s early tempo.

But the Championship team’s class soon told as they blew away their League Two opponents in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.

“I was a little bit concerned about Connor’s injury early on,” said McEvoy.

“We worked on everything yesterday and then you lose one of your players straight away.

“But Sean Maguire has been great for us anyway and he has come on so it didn’t disrupt us too much.

“I thought in the first half we were excellent, some of what we were playing was really really good.

“At 2-0, I thought we thoroughly deserved it but I said at half-time, it’s always a precarious scoreline because the next goal in the game decides how it goes.

“I just knew if we got the third goal it would be an easier night for us. But credit to Cheltenham they came and pressed us really really hard in the second half.

“Any game that you go and play in you need to go and try and win it and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

North End’s Andrew Hughes nodded home the opener on 25 minutes and they added a second 10 minutes later when Joe Rafferty poked home from close range.

Against the run of play, the Robins gave themselves hope and Kyle Vassell had been on the pitch only three minutes when he smashed a volley into the roof of the net from the angle.

But the hosts responded when Maguire, who replaced Wickham, fired into the bottom corner on the turn to send his side into the fourth round.

Emil Riis underlined the gulf in class between the two sides with a late strike but Cheltenham manager Michael Duff saw beyond the scoreline.

“I am not bothered about the final score,” said Duff.

“I was disappointed with the first half, but really pleased with the second half. The fact we’ve gone out of the tie doesn’t really bother me.

“It wasn’t a 4-1 game, but 2-0 down at half-time and we never really laid a glove on them. We didn’t compete, didn’t get on the ball, or do any part of the game well.

“We tweaked it and I had a bit of a pop at them, but that’s a young team. We started with six under-21s and finished with seven, so they’ve taken on that information and had a go.

“They scored two at the end, which was a bit harsh on the scoreline, but we won’t be fazed or disappointed by getting beat four. We were competitive with what we wanted to be.”