Jerome Jolly scored the only goal as the youth team got back to winning ways with a 1-0 triumph over Tranmere Rovers at UCLan Sports Arena.
Josh Pollard played the pass for his fellow second year to convert ten minutes before the break, the young Lilywhites remaining firm in the second half to secure victory.
Pollard came into the side as one of five changes from last time out against Wrexham, as Charlie Lyons returned following a three-match suspension, while Jack Armer, Jack Baxter and Darren Brannigan were all called upon having recovered from their respective injuries.
The game followed a familiar pattern from the off, North End’s youngsters controlling possession but having to remain patient in the face of a resolute Tranmere backline.
Both sides had early glimpses of goal, one Jolly corner looking as though it might have snuck inside the near post but for a clearance and Pollard failing to get a shot away quickly enough from an Ethan Walker centre.
Nathan Corness carried the visitors’ main threat, one dangerous pass for Bailey Thompson just overhit before he saw a shot of his own blocked, Walker reaching the byline at the other end but crossing into the grasp of Tranmere ‘keeper, Bayleigh Passant.
There were several occasions, though, where fine margins seemed to keep out the Lilywhites, Pollard and Jack Armer both racing in on goal within moments of one another, with Passant twice quick off his line.
Jack Baxter had a shot blocked from 20 yards before Pollard was rewarded with a free run down the right for his pressing, but his delivery, aimed towards Brannigan in acres of space, was cut out by a defender.
Tranmere might have taken the lead just after the half hour but the chance escaped George Nugent after he’d won the ball back in space just outside the box, but he spent too much time on the ball and North End cleared after his shot was deflected over.
Crucially, in the following 34th minute, Jolly struck to give PNE the lead.
The second year scholar had blazed wide from a Baxter pass moments earlier but he made no mistake this time around, controlling Pollard’s measured pass, who had regained possession in midfield, and slotting the ball through Passant’s legs.
The hosts looked hungry for another and although they failed to test the ‘keeper again before the break, that sense of danger remained in the second half with Pollard heavily involved, shooting over from range and almost setting up Armer again, but the defender couldn’t get a shot away.
Tyrhys Dolan headed straight at Passant from a Jolly cross and then nodded wide from a Walker free-kick the other side of the hour mark.
Walker went close himself with less than a quarter of an hour remaining, flashing one past the post from 20 yards and placing marginally over from similar range soon after, while Kyle Hayde’s speculative strike at the other end found the side netting.
There was still time for Tranmere to provide a late scare but fortunately for PNE, substitute Harrison Musuamba headed wide from point blank range and Cottam saved another nodded effort, the hosts holding out for a thoroughly deserved win having bossed the majority of the game.
Academy manager Nick Harrison was impressed by his side’s display.
“I thought it was an excellent performance and a good result as well,” he told PNE.Com. “It’s a clean sheet and a win, so three points, which is what the players strive for.
“In the first half, we made them defend deep. We penetrated them quite early on in the game and made lots of forward runs and good decisions on the ball to really stretch them.
“We opened the game up and started passing the ball really well as the first half went on and the goal is a good move, although I felt we probably had better moves in the game which we probably could have scored from.
“It was a really well taken goal, a good finish and good movement which came from quick play in their box, which we’ve spent a lot of time talking to the lads about in terms of breaking teams down.
“We come up against lots of teams that want to defend their box and get numbers behind us, so it’s really pleasing to see us do that and see Jerome Jolly score the goal.”
The boss was equally pleased to see Tranmere prevented from breaching the PNE backline.
“We’re as delighted to get the clean sheet as we are to get the goal that wins us the game. The back five did really well, the players in front of them protected them well, we pressed when we needed to and we were solid when they broke against us.
“We dealt with their threats really well, they had a tall No.9 [Bailey Thompson] and although we might not have won every header, we didn’t need to do that.
“We defended really well against him and nullified that threat and when we won the ball back, we broke well and got into some good areas.
“We’ have liked to have created some more chances but ultimately I felt we controlled the game, we passed it and kept the ball well and were patient in our attacking play.
“Maybe if we had shown a little bit more quality, we might have scored one or two goals to make the scoreline reflect the game a bit more.”
PNE line-up: Cottam; Simmons, Earl, Lyons, Armer; Pollard, Baxter; Jolly, Dolan, Walker; Brannigan (Potts, 73). Subs not used: Williams, Lenton, McFayden, McManus.