AARON McLean will never be mentioned in the same breath as the Bradford City history-makers.

The striker will go down as an expensive dud in the Phil Parkinson era that produced some of the club’s greatest memories of recent years.

But his record of being the last Bantams player to score a winning goal in the League Cup first round goes on for another year.

City’s exit last night at the hands of Championship visitors Preston was their fifth in a row at the opening hurdle of the competition that famously made their name in 2013.

It has been painfully thin fare since McLean’s bundled late winner at Morecambe, which most felt was achieved with a sleight of hand anyway.

That set up the more memorable scalp of Leeds at Valley Parade the following round – which remains City’s last win in the competition that had made them a world name six years ago.

At least, there was no death by penalties on this occasion as had been the case in three of the four previous attempts. Losing to a side from two divisions above does not carry the same stigma as being dumped by Macclesfield, either.

But the gulf between the teams was painful to watch and few in City’s reshuffled line-up will have given Gary Bowyer a prod towards league selection.

Certainly, there was never a danger of emulating any of the exploits of those who proudly adorn the wall of the squad dining room at the training ground. This was an old-fashioned thumping.

Only three starters remained from the Grimsby draw as Bowyer rang the changes, Paudie O’Connor wearing the captain’s armband.

Preston switched the entire team, showing the depth of their resources – something that the City boss had talked of one day emulating with his own club.

But he won’t have enjoyed the fast start which saw the visitors go two up inside the first 20 minutes.

One-time City loanee Tom Clarke set up the opener with a cross from Alan Browne’s throw. Anthony O’Connor missed it and Andre Green got ahead of Tyler French to volley in at the far post.

It was an early learning curve for novice French on his first pro outing and debutant keeper Sam Hornby had no chance.

Preston poured forward and there were chances for Brad Potts, Tom Bayliss and Jayden Stockley in a five-minute spell before the inevitable second.

Ryan Ledson’s pass split open City and winger Tom Barkhuizen beat O’Connor to slide home.

More carnage threatened as Green’s fierce drive looked a certain goal but Stockley could not dive out the way in time and the ball smacked into his midriff.

The small crowd remained muted as City struggled to find a way back. Sean Scannell, at least, offered the odd moment of hope on his first start of the campaign.

But it took until the final minute of the half for the first shot on target.

Jermaine Anderson, one of those to keep their spot from the weekend, found room to drive straight at Connor Ripley and beat the floor in frustration; a gesture probably aimed more at the one-sided nature of the action.

Clearly revved up by Bowyer in the interval, City briefly came back out with more zip.

Connor Wood, playing as a left winger, brought the fans to life as his curling effort from the corner of the box bounced off the bar.

Then he got down the flank again to whip in a cross that Danny Devine flicked over the bar.

But the flicker of hope was quickly extinguished after a woeful mistake from Anthony O’Connor gifted Preston a third. The centre half played the ball across the face of his own box and Barkhuizen accepted the gift to bag his second.

The contrast from O’Connor’s strong display against Grimsby three days earlier could not have been greater.

And the night got even worse for the Irishman when newly-arrived sub Josh Harrop’s shot looped off his attempted challenge and over a stranded Hornby for Preston’s fourth.

French threw himself in the way to deny Brad Potts another before City almost managed a scant consolation when Luca Colville slid a cross-shot past the far post.

The proud history remains but there’s not been any magic in this cup for a while.