Preston North End U18s came out on top of a seven-goal thriller against Hartlepool United in the group stages of the Youth Alliance Cup.
Goals from Izac Khan, Peter Critchley, Tom Wilkinson and a Hartlepool own goal saw the Lilywhites leave Blackhall Welfare Park victorious.
The hosts got the game underway and North End immediately pressed, creating chances to pile pressure on the opposition.
The first chance of note was a header in the seventh minute from Tom Wilkinson, which forced a save from the Hartlepool ‘keeper.
With PNE very much on the front foot, just 11 minutes later they found the back of the net as a low-driven shot from the left from Khan opened the scoring.
Following the goal, play was very much end to end, with both teams pushing on, but it was PNE again who broke through. This time it was a header at the back post from Critchley which went straight into the back of the net following a great ball from Jonny Brindle.
As the end of the first half neared, Tommy Davis provided a vital save at the bottom left corner of the net to deny a goal back for Hartlepool.
As the second half commenced, the match changed course and Hartlepool were able to score in both the 49th and 53rd minute to bring it all level.
Davis then had to come up with a big stop to deny Pools taking the lead just a minute later.
North End weren’t done, though, and a header in the box in the 58th minute from Wilkinson – who was also on the scoresheet midweek – floated over the hands of the opposition ‘keeper to make it 3-2 to the visitors.
But Hartlepool again levelled the game just ten minutes later.
As frustration brewed in both teams, PNE made multiple substitutions in order to try and grab the winner, and an 80th-minute change which saw Ethan Eccleston make way for Ayden Garrigan proved vital. A cross from the super sub seven minutes later saw a Hartlepool defender swing the ball into the back of his own net.
As time ticked on, PNE held their nerve and kept the lead, despite Hartlepool pushing for a last-gasp equaliser.
The victory means North End have taken four points from their opening two Youth Alliance Cup matches.
Coach John Welsh was pleased with the lads’ performance in the first half, but emphasised the importance of making the most of chances and preventing counter-attacks from the opposition.
Welsh said: “I think we did really well in the first half. Probably with a bit more quality we should’ve scored a few more goals if I’m being critical of the lads.
“They (Hartlepool) came out in the second half and took it to us really by playing forward more. It was more aggressive, they got more balls into the box and probably put us on the back foot a bit more than what we wanted.
“I think the overall emphasis for us is we’ve got to put up with that. We’ve got to defend better, and stop crosses coming into our box.
“I think the quality that we had leading up into the box was really good, especially in the first half, so it’s just about getting that quality right into the box and to help us score more goals.
“The more goals we score, the more it’ll help us win games.”
The Lilywhites now look ahead to their next fixture, a league clash at Springfields against Stockport County on Saturday 16th September.
PNE line-up: Davis, Critchley (McGhee, 59), Pasiek, Kamara, Wilkinson, Brindle, Eccleston (Garrigan, 80), Wilson, Gairns (T.Mawene, 74), Stringfellow, Khan (Carroll, 80). Subs not used: Milne.