Preston North End U18s progressed to the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup final after defeating Bolton Wanderers on penalties.
Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile and Kacper Pasiek gave North End a two-goal lead in the first half, but a second-half penalty and free-kick saw the visitors force the game to a shootout.
Goalkeeper Tommy Davis was the hero as he saved two penalties as North End won 3-0 on spot-kicks.
PNE started the game the much brighter, playing with a high intensity and Noah Mawene had the first effort on goal which was fired just wide.
Just 11 minutes in, Rodriguez-Gentile gave the Lilywhites the lead as a long ball upfield was expertly controlled by the young Brazilian, and he galloped through on goal to finish past the ‘keeper.
As the first half went by, not many clear-cut chances were being created. However, North End were having the better of the possession.
PNE then doubled their lead eight minutes before half-time, when a whipped cross in from the right was headed past the ‘keeper by Pasiek, who rose highest after venturing forward from left wing back.
The Lilywhites nearly had three before the break, as a great counter attack started off by Cole McGhee ended with Max Wilson picking up the ball on the edge of the area, but his strike was extremely well blocked.
Then, nine minutes into the second half, the visitors were awarded a penalty after Pasiek fouled in the area. Joel Burgess stepped up and fired the ball straight down the middle to give Bolton a goal back.
Davis made two huge stops from point-blank range to keep North End’s lead intact, while at the other end Pasiek tried to restore their two-goal advantage, and his strike from distance was tipped over the bar.
However, it was the visitors who scored the next goal of the game just four minutes from time, whipping a free-kick into the near post to be flicked past Davis, to send the game to a shootout.
Bolton’s first spot-kick was blazed over the bar, while Mawene gave PNE a lead, before Davis came up with two big saves and – with Pasiek and Kitt Nelson both finding the back of the net – North End came out on top to secure a place in the final.
Coach Andy Fensome was really impressed with his team’s performance, especially in the first half.
“I thought we were really good in the first half,” said Fensome.
“The intensity was high from minute one. We created numerous chances and probably should have scored more than two.
“Bolton came out with more intensity in the second half and were on top of us at times and they ended up getting the two goals back.”
Fensome felt the team showed great character and confidence when it came to the penalty shootout.
He added: “I asked the lads who wanted to take a penalty and there was eight of them with their hands up, so full credit to them.
“We scored all three penalties we took, and Tommy made two fantastic saves.
“He’s played in some big games this year Tommy and as a first-year player this should really boost his confidence.”