Jimmy Corcoran saved the decisive spot kick as the youth team beat Burnley on penalties, following a goalless 90 minutes, to reach the semi-finals of the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup.
The young Lilywhites had largely controlled the play in normal time, Tyrhys Dolan and Tyler Williams both hitting the woodwork in the second half, but it was Corcoran’s save that ultimately separated the teams, with the other 13 penalties in the shootout all successfully converted.
Lewis Earl, Darren Brannigan and Corcoran came into the side as three changes from the last outing against Fleetwood, as Burnley started strongly in blustery conditions at UCLan Sports Arena.
Michael Fowler drew a strong save from Corcoran from a tight angle seven minutes in but the majority of the chances were created by the home side from there on, Brannigan touching Jerome Jolly’s cross goalwards on the quarter hour without troubling goalkeeper Harry Allen.
Adam O’Reilly played through Brannigan to go one-on-one against Allen but the defender recovered in time to tackle, the Burnley ‘keeper then palming a Jolly free-kick straight at Dolly, the deflection going out for a throw in when it could have gone anywhere.
Brannigan got his head on a pair of Jolly crosses, heading over and then straight at Kelly, either side of Corcoran dealing well with a deep free-kick from Chris Conn-Clarke.
O’Reilly and Dolan were both superbly denied by Allen late in the half after going through on goal and Potts put past the post either side of the break.
There was some additional pressure from the visitors in the second half with Lewis Simmons clearing superbly ahead of Fowler, who himself lobbed over the bar before the hour but Corcoran was forced into a diving save from Conn-Clarke minutes later.
Baxter then volleyed over from a Jolly corner and sent another decent long-range effort just wide, while Earl did well to halt Fowler’s run at the other end.
The Lilywhites came closest on 71 minutes courtesy of Dolan’s moment of brilliance, wriggling himself away from a defender 20 yards from goal and curling against the top right-hand post.
Burnley had a couple of late opportunities as well, the best of which around 15 minutes from time as Corcoran brilliantly turned behind Mitch George’s low shot, before the PNE stopper saved another effort on the bounce from Fowler.
North End almost had the final say, though, as Williams turned Jolly’s corner onto the post, but a shootout prevailed.
Baxter, Simmons, Brian McManus, O’Reilly, Dolan and Jolly had all converted before Corcoran stuck out a leg to save Burnley’s sixth penalty, Potts subsequently slotting home the winning penalty, showing no sign of pressure.
The Lilywhites are now into the last four of the competition and Academy coach Andy Fensome was pleased with the side’s performance.
“We’re very pleased to get the win today and I thought the boys played extremely well,” the Professional Development Phase coach told PNE.Com. “We passed the ball well in difficult conditions with it being very windy.
“There’s always going to be chances at different stages of the game and especially first half we created some really good chances.
“Yes, Burnley had some chances second half, but the back four worked extremely hard, they covered each other and the boys in front of them worked hard and created chances.”
“We practised yesterday in training so that was a good bit of preparation from the boys [for penalties]. We didn’t score the goals in normal time but today they were clinical finishes [in the shootout] and I don’t think the ‘keeper could’ve got near any of them.
“We’ll work on some more things during the next week or so. It’s good for the lads to come in and listen them to cheering and being happy, that’s what football should be all about – getting results and that’s what the boys did today.”
North End’s youngsters are next in action on Saturday 3 November with a trip to Carlisle United. Their semi-final opponents in the Lancashire FA Youth Cup will be confirmed in due course, you can first discover who will they take on by following @pnefcacademy on Twitter.
PNE line-up: Corcoran; Simmons, Earl, Williams, McFayden; O’Reilly, Baxter; Potts, Dolan, Jolly; Brannigan (McManus, 79). Subs not used: Nolan, Cottam, Pollard, Holland-Wilkinson.