Four goals in five first-half minutes helped the youth team to an impressive 6-1 win away to Carlisle United on Saturday.
After a quiet start, the visitors sprung into life just before the half hour as Mike Howard opened the scoring before Harry Garstang struck a brace either side of Oscar O’Neil’s long-range effort.
Charlie Lyons made it five before the hour with a stunning volley, Sam Adewusi pulling one back for the hosts minutes later but Ethan Walker restored the five-goal just over ten minutes from full-time.
Howard almost put the Lilywhites in front two minutes in, driving just over from the edge of the box in what was the best opportunity for either side in the opening half hour.
Both teams looked to keep possession in those early moments but clear chances proved sparse, the hosts’ closest opportunity just shy of 20 minutes in when Papa Belchior’s shot was deflected wide.
However, PNE took control after 29 minutes with Howard edging his side ahead. Jack Armer played it ball down the left flank for the winger, who then drove inside from the left and converted low into the bottom left corner with a fine finish from the edge of the box.
Not a minute had passed before the Lilywhites had their second. Howard was involved again, showing good skill down the left to make the space to cross, allowing Garstang to side foot home with a well-controlled effort at the near post.
O’Neil made it three two minutes later with a great strike. He beat a man deep in midfield before driving into space and unleashing a shot into the bottom right corner from 30 yards out.
And in the 34th minute, North End extended their advantage yet again. Howard chased Lyons’ over the top ball and when his strike was parried, Garstang was perfectly placed to pounce for his side’s fourth goal.
PNE continued to dominate after the break with Adam O’Reilly surging forward on the counter soon after the interval and Precieux Ngongo unlucky as he shot just wide from the resulting corner.
Carlisle nearly pulled one back soon after when Max Cowburn’s shot from distance struck the post, the hosts again hitting the woodwork with the initial rebound before successfully converting from the second, only for it to be disallowed for offside.
The Lilywhites got their fifth on 58 minutes. O’Neil drove down the right and hung it up for Lyons, who controlled brilliantly on his chest and volleyed into the bottom left corner with his right foot.
Carlisle did pull one back four minutes later when James Cottam made a superb stop to deny Belchior one on one, but Adewusi finished coolly from the rebound just inside the box.
The visitors had made a triple change just before the hour and continued to look in control, two of the reinforcements linking up for the sixth goal on 77 minutes. Tyrhys Dolan intercepted well on the edge of the box and played Ethan Walker into space, the winger finishing first time from close range.
That completed the rout for the Lilywhites and youth team manager Nick Harrison was understandably delighted with his side’s performance.
“Obviously, we’re delighted to win the game and more importantly to score the amount of goals we did,” Harrison told PNE.com. “The players made their chances count and took them really well.
“We started a bit slowly but once we started moving it quickly on and off the ball, we caused them lots of problems.
“The goals came from good play with us passing the ball, moving it well and making good movement off their players and that’s what we did really well after the first 20 minutes. Once we started doing that well, we kept that up which is why we scored the four goals so quickly.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t keep the clean sheet but to score six and only concede one is a fantastic performance from the boys.”
Harrison welcomed having plenty of different players on the scoresheet while also commending those who came into the side and more than played their part in this triumph.
“We challenge the forward players to get as many goals and assists as they can. They are the creative players so they need to make the chances for themselves and each other, and I think they did that really well today. It’s really pleasing to have five different goalscorers from the team today and long may that continue.
“It was great to see Charlie Lyons back, he’s up to 60 minutes now in terms of game time and hopefully we can get him some more time on the pitch in the coming games. We’re delighted for the players who came in to the side and it just shows that we’ve got good players at the club who can come in and take their chance as they have today.”
“We ask the lads to work hard and if we get a win from that, that’s great and we want them to have that hunger and desire to win every game, but we’ve got to do it in the right way because it’s all about development and we want to ensure the players are doing the right things to enable them to have a career in the game.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Wood, Ngongo, Lyons (Campbell, 59), Armer; O’Neil (Day, 72), Baxter; Smart, O’Reilly (Dolan, 59), Howard (Walker, 59); Garstang. Subs not used: Lenton.