Noah Mawene struck a hattrick as Preston North End U18s earned an emphatic 6-0 win away at Lancashire neighbours Accrington Stanley.
The son of North End legend Youl Mawene was joined on the scoresheet by Joe Rodwell-Grant, Aaron Bennett and Ben Dooley, who all scored one apiece.
It was a strong response from the young Lilywhites after going two weeks without a league game, having lost last time out against Fleetwood Town, despite creating plenty of opportunities in front of goal.
Rodwell-Grant and Lewis Leigh retained their places from that day’s starting line-up, having both since enjoyed the experience of being substitutes for the first team in midweek at Millwall.
There were four changes to the side that faced the Cod Army a fortnight ago, though, as Josh Seary, Levi Lewis, Teddy Mfuni and Aaron Bennett came into the side for Jacob Slater, Harry Huddart, Mikey O’Neil and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson.
Huddart was the 21st man in the first team squad on Saturday for AFC Bournemouth’s visit to Deepdale.
Speaking after the victory, Academy manager Nick Harrison told PNE.Com: “The difference between the previous game was that we took our chances and were clinical. Yesterday, our performance was very good.
“On the ball, we passed it with purpose and we created lots of chances. The scoreline probably should have been more than six and obviously we protected our own goal and getting a clean sheet is just as important as scoring the goals that we did.
“Any time you get a clean sheet, it just gives you a platform for when you score goals which is how you end up winning games.
“That’s the challenge we pose to the players every session and every game, we want to work hard when we haven’t got the ball, work hard as individuals in a team and we want to score goals as individuals in a team. We did that in abundance yesterday, which is really pleasing.”
After seeing Mawene hit three of the six goals on the day, the Academy manager also spoke of his satisfaction to see the youngster flourishing, along with a number of U16 players getting their opportunity in the youth team this season.
“We’re really pleased for Noah, it’s something that we’re encouraging him to do is to score more goals – that’s five goals in his last three games now. It’s something that we’ll continue to challenge him with.
“What we have done this year is accelerated the growth of a number of U16 players. Yesterday, we had four involved again and I think that’s been the story of our season.
“There’s been a plan behind that; we only took 17 scholars over this period because we know we’ve got very good players coming from behind. It’s giving them the opportunity to play and they’re taking it.”
That has also seen opportunities for some scholars to train and travel with the first team this season, with Rodwell-Grant and Leigh not the only youngsters to have been among the substitutes for Alex Neil’s senior side this term.
Lewis Coulton and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson have also been on the bench for the first team earlier in the campaign, with Ben Dooley having the opportunity to travel and a number of other players training with the Lilywhites’ senior squad.
Nick added: “When some of the scholars get opportunities in and around the first team, that does open up places, but the spaces will always open up for players who are doing well, regardless of numbers.
“That’s the challenge for all the players, to be better than the people around you. It doesn’t matter what level, U18s or first team, that’s what football is all about. They’ve got to keep developing and keep pushing each other to progress and develop.”
PNE line-up: Lombard; Seary (O'Neil, 60), Mfuni, Blanchard, Lewis; Dooley, Leigh (Amaral, 46); Nicholson, Mawene, Bennett (Green, 60); Rodwell-Grant (Taylor, 67).
Subs not used: Duggan.
Referee: Mr J Ryan.
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