Preston North End were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup in the third round by Coventry City, being beaten in a penalty shootout following a 3-3 draw after 120 enthralling minutes.
Theo Mawene opened the scoring for PNE in the 12th minute, before the visitors levelled against the run of play through Aidan Dausch, but PNE would lead at the break thanks to Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile.
Dausch found another equaliser, though, seven minutes before the 90 was up and Charlie Finney thought he’d won it in extra-time, until Tom Wilkinson popped up with a 121st-minute leveller to send the match to penalties.
However, North End’s Izac Khan was the only player to see his spot-kick saved in an otherwise perfect shootout, and the Sky Blues took the victory.
North End were the team on top from the start at Deepdale, with skipper Max Wilson and Kacper Pasiek both coming close, before Mawene gave his side the lead in style.
A corner was only half-cleared as it fell to the feet of the tricky midfielder who struck the ball beautifully on the volley, giving goalkeeper Luis Lines no chance.
Wilson so nearly made it two in the 17th minute when his shot was parried by Lines into the air and over his head, but the ‘keeper quickly turned to catch before the ball went over the line.
Coventry’s first real attack of the evening came in the 25th minute when Dausch showed a great turn of pace to earn a corner for his side, and the forward levelled from the resulting set piece, slamming underneath Tommy Davis as a loose ball broke his way.
Rodriguez-Gentile – who scored five at this stage of the competition last season – could have found the net just after the half-hour mark when Wilson played him through, however the Argentine sent the bobbling ball wide.
At the other end, Davis’ goal was peppered during the last five minutes of the half and he came up with four crucial saves, most notably to keep Callum Perry out from a one-on-one situation.
Instead it was North End ahead at the break as Wilson played the ball through for Rodriguez-Gentile, and the forward sent an effort beyond Lines – courtesy of a deflection off Gordon – to cue huge celebrations.
Shortly into the second half, all the goalscorers came close as Mawene and Rodriguez-Gentile both looked to double their tally, while Dausch saw a shot blocked by Khan.
Wilson came inches away from giving PNE some breathing space just a minute later when his low strike bounced back off the post, and Mawene then fired the rebound over from close range.
Lines had to produce an impressive stop 15 minutes from time to dive low to his left and prevent Rodriguez-Gentile sneaking it in at his near post, and just a few moments later the striker saw an effort cleared off the line by David Mantle.
It looked like PNE were in control but they couldn’t clear as Conrad Ambursley dribbled in and out of the defence, setting Dausch up to strike and find the far corner to send the tie to extra-time.
As the two sides understandably began to tire, chances started to come few and far between, but the Sky Blues took theirs in the 101st minute when Finney tapped home at the back stick to convert Rylie Siddall’s drilled cross.
North End had a huge chance with five minutes left on the clock as Wilkinson rose highest to head Ellis Horan’s corner goalwards, but Lines managed to keep it out.
There was no stopping Wilkinson in the 121st minute, though, as he hammered a low strike beyond Lines to take the game to penalties in the most dramatic of circumstances.
It wasn’t to be, however, as just one saved penalty would cost North End who bowed out of the competition, but with a superb showing full of character.
PNE line-up: Davis; Blake, Wilkinson, McGhee; Eccleston (Garrigan, 103), T.Mawene (Tarry, 90+1), Horan, Khan, Pasiek (Goldsmith, 82); Wilson (Carroll, 74), Rodriguez-Gentile. Subs not used: Stowell, Critchley, Gairns.
Coventry line-up: Lines; Gordon, Mantle, Perry; Smith (Stretton, 84), Andrews, McCallum (Ambursley, 67), Siddall; Betjemann (Osaghae, 110), Finney (Panayiotou, 103); Dausch. Subs not used: Meredith, Blakely, James.
Referee: Mr J Chadwick.