Preston North End beat Sutton United on penalties in a thrilling tie to progress through to the next round of the FA Youth Cup.
Goals from Mikey O’Neill and Noah Mawene took the game right to the end of 120 minutes before Josh Seary fired a winning penalty in the shoot-out to secure the win for North End.
PNE had to come from behind in the first half and bounce back after Johnny Fitzgerald fired a long-range effort in to equalise.
With only U18s eligible for this competition, manager Nick Harrison made ten changes to the side that beat Oldham 5-2 at the weekend, with Mawene the only player to retain his spot.
There was a cagey opening to the game, as both teams struggled to get a foothold, however the hosts took the lead with their first real opportunity. A cross from the right-hand side found the Sutton forward and he was able to guide his header into the top left-hand corner to break the deadlock.
The hosts weren’t ahead for long though, as just eight minutes later North End were level. O’Neill was played through on goal and he was able to finish into the bottom left-hand corner to equalise.
PNE then began to control the game and a number of chances fell their way, the first of which came to captain Harry Nevin as he headed wide from a Kian Best free-kick.
Right before the break, Mawene had two chances to give North End the lead. Firstly, he headed wide from a Jacob Slater cross and then, after breaking forward, he fired wide from the edge of the box.
The opening to the second period saw both teams struggle to create, but the Lilywhites should have scored a couple of minutes later. It was great work for Mawene to get down the right and skip past his man, he squared the ball across the box, but Vaughn Green’s effort was miraculously saved by the ‘keeper.
North End did take the lead just a minute later through Mawene on 63 minutes, with the ball bobbling around the box before falling to him on the edge of the area and he finished well into the bottom right-hand corner.
This time it was Sutton’s turn to reply with a quick response, though, with an absolute wonder goal by Johnny Fitzgerald levelling the score.
Sutton thought they’d taken the lead late on, but the referee cut the celebrations short, signalling a foul, although the hosts kept piling on the pressure in the closing stages.
Lewis Leigh came up with a big block to stop an effort, and they then had a golden chance to win it as Tanner raced through on goal, but his shot was fired straight at James Pradic.
The referee’s full-time whistle meant the game was going on to extra-time, and PNE’s best opportunity in that came through Leigh who saw his long-range effort saved.
Sutton came close in the second period, seeing a header from a corner trickle onto the post before North End were able to clear, and with nothing to separate the sides after 120 minutes, a penalty shoot-out was to follow.
Green missed North End’s second kick, but at 2-2 the hosts struck the bar before sending the next penalty over the crossbar, meaning Seary had the chance to win the tie for his side, which he did by firing into the top right-hand corner.
Speaking to PNE.Com after the game, manager Nick Harrison said: “I thought it was a tough game. I was really impressed with Sutton United; they made it really difficult for us.
“Overall, I thought we dominated possession and created numerous chances.
“They scored a great goal – it was fantastic strike from the lad – at a time when I thought we might have gone on to score more and win more comfortably.
“I thought our lads dug in and showed great character, great spirit and togetherness which showed in extra-time and penalties.”
Players began to tire as extra-time began, but Harrison knew his team had the quality to get the win.
“During extra-time and just before the penalties, it’s just about trying to motivate the players,” added Nick.
“We’ve got some really good players here. They’ve got the quality, they just needed to believe in it.
“We believed they could win it in extra-time and penalties, and they showed us they could do that.”
North End now move on to the next round where they will face a trip to either Sheffield Wednesday or Southampton.
PNE line-up: Pradic, Mfuni (Wallbank, 120), Blanchard, Leigh, Nevin (C), Best, Seary, Mawene (Lewis, 89), Green, O’Neill (Cross-Adair, 108), Slater.
Subs not used: Duggan, Pasiek, Taylor, Nelson.