Preston North End U18s put in a resilient second-half performance against Accrington Stanley’s Academy to come out victorious in the Youth Alliance Cup.
The 3-2 victory didn’t start as planned, as they went a goal down in the 14th minute, but through the brilliance of Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile ten minutes later, the score was level again.
On the stroke of half-time, Accrington Stanley broke down North End’s defence to regain their lead. PNE U18s came out braver than ever in the second half and overturned the scoreline with two magnificent finishes from Kacper Pasiek and Theo Carroll.
The Lilywhites, who had previously beaten Accrington Stanley 6-5 in the league, endured a rocky start as they conceded early in the half.
However, the U18s showed great character as they pulled one back with a dazzling finish from Rodriguez-Gentile, who skipped past the defender and struck the ball into the back of the net.
Right on the brink of half-time, drama unfolded as North End were awarded a penalty which goalscorer Rodriguez-Gentile saw saved by the goalkeeper, and Stanley’s Academy went down the other end just a minute later and slotted past Tommy Davis, giving them the lead.
PNE, though, demonstrated immense character and spirit in the second half. Jonny Brindle, who would later come off due to injury, whipped in a superb corner-kick which met the head of Pasiek, and his header was too powerful for the ‘keeper to stop and the scoreline was levelled again.
Andy Fensome’s side weren’t finished there, too. With great determination from the team, who faced many adversities through challenges and injuries, they grasped the lead for the first time in the 72nd minute through Carroll who converted his shot from close range to continue the side’s unbeaten start to the Youth Alliance Cup group stage.
Coach John Welsh spoke highly of North End and their mentality after the game. He said: “The lads showed a lot of resilience. It’s a good mentality that we’ve got between the group.
“They were a strong physical team who didn’t give us a minute to do anything, and we sort of knew it would be like that, so to go down against them and to come back and win the game is a massive credit to the lads and shows the character they’ve got.
“It gives our lads a massive boost in confidence. I think now we are in a good place, winning back-to-back games, not conceding as many goals and not giving away as many chances. The lads are heading in the right direction.”
Unfortunately for North End, within the last two games they’ve lost multiple players to injury: Kaedyn Kamara in the last fixture and Jonny Brindle in this one.
Welsh added: “It’s a shame because we don’t want players injured, but it gives other players an opportunity.
“We have got a good Academy, so there’s always a rotation of players to play. Some players may be younger, but we haven’t got a problem doing that because they good enough to play.
“Obviously, we don’t want players getting injured and want everyone as fit as possible, but injuries are part of the game.”
PNE line-up: Davis, Brindle (Nolan, 90), Pasiek, Horan, Wilkinson, McGhee, Tarry (Eccleston, 85), Khan, Rodriguez-Gentile, T.Mawene (Goldsmith, 45+1), Carroll. Subs not used: Stowell, Ifezue.