Preston North End’s U19s moved within three points of the Youth Alliance league title with a thrilling 5-3 win over Bolton Wanderers at Springfields on Saturday.
Doubles from Kitt Nelson and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, as well as a goal from Josh Seary, helped North End to a win against a battling Trotters side, despite finishing with ten men, after Kian Best saw red due to a late second yellow card.
And they had to come from behind, as it was a quick start by the visitors who took the lead within seven minutes. A corner was whipped in from the right and Bolton’s centre half Noah Halford rose highest to head powerfully past Oli Lombard.
However, no more than a minute later North End were level. A great ball to the back post by Jacob Slater found Seary, whose first-time effort flew past the 'keeper and into the bottom left-hand corner.
This game was end to end in the opening stages. Aaron Bennett fired wide from distance, then Lombard made a superb diving save to deny Bolton re-taking the lead.
In the 28th minute the Lilywhites took the lead for the first time, with another excellent ball in from the right by Seary finding the perfectly-timed run of Nelson into the box. He guided a powerful near-post header past Ellis Litherland to put his side 2-1 ahead going into half-time.
The visitors were level seven minutes after the interval, as Finlay Lackett capitalised on a good spell of possession, finding the bottom left-hand corner of Lombard’s goal from 25 yards out.
Once again North End were able to respond quickly, though. Good work from Bennett and half-time substitute Levi Lewis allowed Nelson to get the ball on the edge of the area, and he took his time before firing an effort into the bottom right-hand corner just before the half mark, to restore the lead.
On 63 minutes Holland-Wilkinson then got in on the act, being played through on goal by Bennett and he was able to lob the 'keeper from 18 yards to double North End’s lead.
After coming on as the side’s second change of the morning, Finlay Cross-Adair almost made it five. He fired an audacious effort towards goal which smacked off the inside of the post and was cleared away.
But a fifth goal came with a minute of normal time remaining, when Holland-Wilkinson was able to finish the game off by scoring his second of the game. The striker was played through on goal and calmly finished past Litherland into the bottom right-hand corner.
In injury-time, Best was adjudged to have brought down Arran Pettifer in the penalty area, resulting in his second yellow, and Mitchell Henry converted from the spot, but it was too late to spark a comeback, as the U19s made it 18 league games unbeaten.
PNE line-up: Lombard, Wallbank, Slater, Bennett (c) (Wilson, 81), Taylor, Best, Seary, Mawene (Cross-Adair, 68), Holland-Wilkinson, Nelson, Green (Lewis, 46). Subs not used: Pradic, Rodriguez-Gentile.