North End were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup on penalties at the Gateshead International Stadium, despite taking a first half lead through Brandon Zibaka.
Graham Alexander’s young Lilywhites had the chances to go through, but found home keeper James McGregor in fine form, keeping out a number of efforts in game, and then saving North End’s first three penalties to help his side progress to the second round.
The rain fell from start to finish in the north east, but the conditions did not affect a fluent North End who dominated possession and the chances in the opening period. Under 16 player Sam Livesey went close to getting on the end of Jack Sowerby’s ball in on three minutes and moment’s later David Kuba-Kuba had a shot deflected over the bar by one of his own men.
Twenty minutes in Brandon Zibaka capitalised on a mistake in the home side’s defence to go through one-on-one with McGregor, but for the first time in the evening the custodian made an excellent save to palm the striker’s effort out for a corner.
However, four minutes later he couldn’t deny the No.9 the opener. A cross came in from Matt Greenwood, which was nodded down by Livesey and Zibaka was on hand to fie under the keeper and into the back of the net.
They had further opportunities to extend their lead before the interval; skipper Ben Davies eeing a header well saved and then Zibaka heading straight into McGregor’s midriff from seven yards out after Davies had headed a corner back across goal. And then two minutes before the interval Livesey picked up a poor goalkeeping clearance, lofting it back over the goalie’s head, but inches wide of the post.
It took until two minutes into the second half for the home side to register an effort on target, Dan Taggart, who had scored two hat-tricks in the qualifying round of the competition, getting an effort which Steven James held easily.
Jack Sowerby almost doubled the lead for the North End side ten minutes after the interval, an excellent run and shot, cutting in from the right hand side, but again McGregor saved and North End were run left to rue their profligacy as Mark Brereton fired over a cross-cum-shot and Steve James was unable to get anything on it, the ball nestling in the back of the net.
North End tried to end the tie before it entered extra-time but again found the home side’s keeper in top form, brilliantly denying Ryan Croasdale with the faintest of touches from a free kick with seven minutes left and then getting a strong hand to Zibaka’s turn and shot from the 12 yards out just 60 seconds later.
Goalscorer Zibaka had one last chance to win it for North End with a strong run and shot in injury-time, but he could only find the side-netting and 30 minutes was added to the tie.
In extra-time the home side saw a Dan Halliday header at the back post chalked off, after he was
adjudged to have fouled Ben Davies, but it was McGregor who had the last word, again denying Zibaka after the frontman turned and shot after David Kuba-Kuba had played a ball into his feet on the penalty spot.
And if he wasn’t already the hero for the home side young James McGregor saved from substitute Nick Anderton and Ryan Croasdale from the spot and despite Adam Thurston converting off the bar, Watson, Brereton, Fisher and Coppen converted to give Gateshead the scalp and a place in the second round.
Gateshead Line-Up: James McGregor, Matthew Lowrie (Mechack Kanda, 60), Lewis Davison, Mark Brereton (c), Jordan Lee, Curtis Coppen, Ryan King (Levi Oman, 60), Cameron Nichol, Dan Taggart (Dan Halliday, 75), Leon Watson, Matthew Fisher. Subs: Jack Wilson, Lee Clay.
PNE Line-Up: Steven James, David Kuba-Kuba, Matt Greenwood, Adam Thurston, Daniel Forbes, Ben Davies (c), Sam Livesey (George Gray, 110), Ryan Croasdale, Brandon Zibaka, Jack Sowerby (Josh Brownhill, 81), Tyler Forbes (Nick Anderton, 89). Subs: Tom Quinn, Josh Amis.
Referee: Paul Brown
1 Leon Watson (G) - Scored; Nick Anderton (P) - Saved. 1-0
2 Mark Brereton (G) - Scored; Ryan Croasdale (P) - Saved. 2-0
3 Matthew Fisher (G) - Scored; Adam Thurston (P) - Scored. 3-1
4 Curtis Coppen (G) – Scored. Gateshead win 4-1 on penalties