North End’s youngsters kicked off their pre-season campaign in style with a resounding 6-1 win over Morecambe in the Saturday morning sunshine.
Jack Armer headed the Lilywhites into a half-time lead before a full complement of changes at the break gave the hosts an added freshness which saw Charlie Lyons double the lead within two minutes of the second half restart.
Morecambe pulled one back just after the hour but PNE dominated the closing stages as Louis scored a quick brace and Jerome Jolly and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson wrapped things up late on.
With second year scholars Jack Baxter and Adam O’Reilly away with the first team, the midfield pair unused substitutes in the 7-0 beating of Bamber Bridge, four U16s were among the squad for this pre-season opener; Joe Rodwell-Grant and Harry Edwards included from the start.
It was another second year scholar, though, in Precieux Ngongo who saw the first chance fall his way, the defender just unable to direct his header back across goal, sending Ethan Walker’s free-kick just over at the back post.
Both sides showed great energy in the opening stages although chances came at a premium, the hosts’ best being long range strikes from Walker, who converted wide, and Rodwell-Grant firing straight at Morecambe’s goalkeeper.
Rodwell-Grant had a header disallowed for offside on the half hour before goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran did brilliantly to deny Morecambe an equaliser after their forward had broken down the right side of the area and fired goalwards from a tight angle.
It proved an important stop as just moments later, with 37 minutes on the clock, Armer gave North End the lead. The Lilywhites’ first half captain expertly diverted Brian McManus’ cross over the Morecambe goalkeeper with a looping header.
North End retained their lead at the half-time interval, doubling it almost immediately after that in the 47th minute. Jolly delivered from a corner on the right to find Lyons, who glanced another header into the bottom left corner from close range.
Jolly continued to cause problems, heading onto the roof of the net from a Holland-Wilkinson cross, with one of his own deliveries then trickling just beyond the right hand post, but Morecambe were next to strike.
The striker showed great composure in the box to control and take it onto his left foot, where he finished back across goal into the bottom right corner with a really neat finish after 65 minutes.
Morecambe’s front man might have equalised in the next attack as he approached James Cottam but opted for an elaborate chip which the Lilywhites ‘keeper was able to collect comfortably.
Tyrhys Dolan just cleared the bar with a strike from distance, while Lewis Simmons had a few headed opportunities down the right side of the box, before PNE ended with a flurry of four goals in ten minutes.
Potts struck first, receiving a lay-off from Dolan just outside the area following a goalkeeping error, and finishing with real aplomb into the top right corner in the 83rd minute.
The forward doubled his tally two minutes later as he met Jolly’s neat through ball and chipped it over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Two further goals followed in injury time with Jolly striking a fine free-kick into the bottom right corner before Holland-Wilkinson completed the rout; a tap-in with almost the final kick of the game.
Academy manager Nick Harrison was pleased to see such an emphatic performance from his side in their first pre-season outing.
“It’s a great start to pre-season and it’s off the back of a really tough week in Wales where we took all the players on our annual fitness camp,” he told PNE.com.
“We’ve been up hills, done a lot of running and a bit of football, so we’ve worked them really hard. We came back from Wales injury free and thankfully we’ve finished the game with no injuries as well, which is the main thing we’re looking at as much as the fitness side.
“We set out with two teams [one for each half] and almost everybody has played 45 minutes; we felt it would be a good way to end such a good week in Wales.
“I’m pleased that they’ve won but more importantly with the way they played and the work ethic they put in. If they continue that, they will get fitter and fitter as this pre-season goes on.
“It’s a really pleasing first pre-season game and it’s good that the boys won as well because it gives them a bit of belief going into the season.”
With the U18 side having mainly focused on fitness work during their first week of pre-season, having returned last Sunday, Harrison was encouraged by the quality his side showed on the ball.
“We broke it down for the players that we wanted to challenge them in and out of possession and I thought they did both brilliantly.
“Obviously, there was a few little mistakes and glitches but that’s normal; they’re young lads and it’s their first game back. I thought they passed it well and they worked hard and that’s what we were looking for.
“That was also reflected in the scoreline because we created lots of chances and only conceded one, which we were a little disappointed with, but we’ve won the game by a big margin so that’s really pleasing.”
Well done lads - worked really hard all week as a team and showed such a positive attitude! Enjoy the England game and a day of recovery 😊👍🏻— Matt Craddock (@MattyCraddock1) July 7, 2018
PNE First Half line-up: Corcoran: Earl; Ngongo, Armer, McFayden; Nolan, Edwards, McManus; Rodwell-Grant, Brannigan, Walker.
PNE Second Half line-up: Cottam; Simmons, Williams, Lyons, Coulton; Pollard, Huddart, (Ngongo, 80), Dolan; Holland-Wilkinson, Potts, Jolly.
Subs not used: Lenton.