Preston North End U18s emerged victorious from their tense encounter with Bury on Saturday morning.The manager added: “I said to them before the game that they’ve trained really well. In the last week or two I’ve seen a step up in their application and how they go about their job, I think that’s bore fruit on the Saturdays. Doing the right things every day has to be a habit. From Monday to Friday you’ve got to be on top of your game for it to flow through to the Saturday and the last couple of weeks I think we’ve seen that.”
Alexander was delighted with how the U18s have shown the hunger and desire to push themselves in training to reap the rewards in matches.
He said: “We turned a game that we were reasonably in control of into a game where we were hanging on at the end purely because we were reduced to nine men. We gave away two sloppy goals but the lads’ determination and spirit was there for everyone to see, they were prepared to fight in the right way. This was shown in the way that they challenged for the ball in the air and on the ground, that’s bravery.”
Speaking to PNE.Com after the game, Youth boss Graham Alexander felt that his team showed good spirit to hold onto the lead after losing two players to red cards and giving away what he felt were two avoidable goals.
Preston remained resilient and valiantly held off Bury’s late attacks to secure the victory that their performance merited.
A momentary lapse in concentration from James saw the goalkeeper fail to control a cross from Walker as Duddley tucked the loose ball into the gaping net from close range to give Bury a glimmer of hope.
Bury managed to make the dying moments of the game even more intense when they were gifted a goal in the second minute of added time.
North End had clearly riled Bury and the visitors saw Rowne sent off for an awful aerial challenge minutes after Kuba Kuba’s dismissal. The defender used his elbow when challenging for the ball in the air and had no complaints when he was told to exit the field of play.
As Bury gathered a little confidence with the match coming to an end they won a free-kick that they looked to take quickly. Preston defender David Kuba Kuba illegally blocked the set-piece as it was taken and was sent off for his second bookable offence.
Preston were unlucky to see the lead shortened in the 81st minute. Bury left-back Luke Beastall burst down the left wing before drilling a ball across the six-yard box. Davies slid in an attempt to sweep away the danger but inadvertently directed the ball trickling towards the corner of the net as Bury midfielder Cliffe ensured it was 3-1 from close range.
Just as North End looked like coasting to victory, the Lilywhites endured a less than comfortable final 15 minutes.
Sowerby latched onto a loose ball as the visitors struggled to clear the danger; the midfielder coolly whipped a curling effort from the edge of the area that flew into the corner, rendering Keane completely helpless to prevent the goal.
Bury desperately fought in an attempt to make their extra man on the pitch count but their efforts were in vain as North End stretched their lead further in the 74th minute.
Words shared between the two resulted in the pair clashing heads, an incident in which Clarke was just as at fault as Whittington.
Preston’s mood was immediately dampened after that as Whittington was dismissed after a disagreement with Bury defender Levi Clarke.
The winger raced down the left flank before skipping past Rowne and smashing home a thunderous strike from 20 yards to further deflate the Shakers.
The half-time break did nothing to assuage the situation for Bury as North End increased their lead soon after the restart through an impressive solo effort from Forbes.
Frustration then became evident within the Bury side. Their inability to score coupled with Preston’s growing superiority resulted in them becoming increasingly annoyed whenever the referee’s decisions went against them.
The defender met a Tyler Forbes corner with a powerful header that soared over goalkeeper Connor Keane and into the far corner to open the scoring in the 38th minute.
Captain Ben Davies came close with a header that was cleared off the line in the 24th minute before Greenwood found the breakthrough just before half-time.
Following Bury’s second chance of the game, a period ensued in which Preston dominated proceedings.
Minutes later, clever interplay from Duddley and David Nasseri freed up space for Regan Walker to run at goal. Fortunately for North End, the ball got away from the striker slightly as he could only muster a prod at goal that James saved well.
In the 7th minute Lilywhites goalkeeper Steve James raced Bury striker Tom Pratt for a loose ball in the box; the latter reached it first before hitting a hopeful ball with his first touch that Cliffe couldn’t direct into an open net under pressure.
Bury began the match admirably and could have taken the lead on two occasions early on.
The match was a fast-paced meeting in which Preston finished as the deserved winners.
Jake Cliffe’s and Anthony Duddley’s goals weren’t quite enough for the visitors who also had a player sent off when Tom Rowne was dismissed.
Goals from Matt Greenwood, Tyler Forbes and Jack Sowerby ensured that the Lilywhites collected all three points despite Joe Whittington and David Kuba Kuba being sent off in the second half.
In this weekend's edition of The And Only we will have an exclusive interview with Graham Alexander on how the season has panned out plus catching up with youth team stars Jack Ryan and Ben Davies.