Joe Nolan marked his first start of the season with a goal, but his header couldn’t prevent the youth team from suffering their first away defeat of the season to Wrexham.
The first year scholar netted the rebound after Ethan Walker’s free-kick had struck the woodwork, just shy of the half hour mark, with the hosts having taken the lead inside five minutes.
🎥 | @joenolan02 grabbed #PNEU18’s only goal in North Wales on Saturday as the young Lilywhites took on @Wxmafcyouthdept. 👇#pnefc pic.twitter.com/2TD02pgPAu— PNE Academy (@pnefcacademy) 5 November 2018
The Red Dragons grabbed the winner moments before the hour, a long throw routine culminating with a close range finish under returning goalkeeper James Cottam.
Cottam was one of three changes from the Young Lilywhites’ last outing, in which they triumphed over Burnley in the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup eleven days ago. Nolan was handed a first start this term and Ethan Walker made his first youth team appearance in three weeks.
Wrexham got off to the perfect start by taking a fifth minute lead. The opening goal came after good hold-up play by the striker dropping deep, sending a teammate into space to cross low from the right byline, the forward providing the finish from close range at the back post.
It was a strong start by the hosts but North End had a chance to equalise during Wrexham’s best spell, Tyrhys Dolan flicking Jerome Jolly’s cross into Ethan Walker’s path, who was lurking at the far post, but couldn’t keep his balance to test the goalkeeper.
A minute later and the home side almost doubled the lead when they robbed possession in the Lilywhites’ defensive third, with a shot from just inside the area rebounding off Cottam’s bottom left-hand post.
The visitors grew into the game, though, Lewis Earl’s header from Walker’s deep free-kick shading the outside of the left-hand post on its way behind, Louis Potts not quite able to divert it home.
However, the visitors only needed to wait a few more moments before their equaliser arrived in the 27th minute. It came from another Walker free-kick, the young forward this time going for goal himself, curling against the bar from 20 yards with Nolan reacting well to nod in the rebound.
PNE took confidence from that, finishing the half positively. Jolly’s snapshot could only be parried by the goalkeeper ten minutes before the break and Potts was unfortunate to see his follow-up strike the post.
Adam O’Reilly played an incisive pass through for Potts to have another chance minutes the but later but the home ‘keeper was off his line well to gather ahead of the forward.
Dolan and Jolly drew further saves from Wrexham’s No.1 late in the half, the latter’s effort requiring a particularly impressive stop, after he’d opened his body up and placed towards the bottom corner from the inside right channel, following a neat exchange with Potts.
The Lilywhites carried their good play into the second half and had a series of corners immediately after the interval, Lewis Simmons going closest with a venomous strike being blocked.
Potts then had a goal disallowed for offside, having tapped in Jolly’s whipped free-kick, and Cottam made an excellent save at the other end to tip over a free-kick destined for the top right corner.
That was a rare piece of action for the North End goalkeeper, but there was nothing he could do shortly after in the 59th minute, when Jake Bickerstaff turned away from his man as a long throw into the area came his way, and he slotted under Cottam from inside the six-yard box.
North End’s momentum was disrupted slightly by going behind, although they did create further opportunities, Potts and Dolan both sending glancing headers wide.
Jolly had a decent looking effort blocked following some clever skill and although the Lilywhites did much of the pressing late on, Simmons was still required in defence to make a brilliant sliding challenge to block a Wrexham shot from inside the box.
Earl blazed a half chance over from a loose ball and Jolly looped another shot into the 'keeper’s grasp deep into an extended period of added time, but North End ultimately left North Wales empty handed.
PNE line-up: Cottam; Simmons, Earl, Williams, McFayden; Nolan (Pollard, 45), O’Reilly; Jolly, Dolan (McManus, 71), Walker; Potts (Holland-Wilkinson, 65). Subs not used: Lloyd, Lenton.