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Wrexham U18s 2 PNE U18s 0

3 April 2013

A goal in either half was enough to see Wrexham beat North End and put the Reds in charge of their own destiny in terms of the North West Youth Alliance title race.

Despite dominating for large spells in the match, the young Lilywhites were undone by two fortuitous goals, meaning that they need Wrexham to slip up if they are to have any hope of winning the league.

In a match played in blustery conditions, the away side controlled the tempo well and outplayed their Welsh counterparts without creating much in the way of goalscoring opportunities over the 90 minutes.

Rhys Turner had the game’s best chance during the opening exchanges when he was sent one-on-one with the Wrexham goalkeeper, after a perfectly weighted ball beat the offside trap, but he only succeeded in stabbing the ball wide of goal, although in fairness, he was closed down quickly by the Wrexham goalkeeper.

Against the run of play it was the hosts who went ahead after taking advantage of a poor Preston throw-in.

North End surrendered possession too easily and one of the home team’s strikers stole the ball before driving at the Preston rear-guard.

With no one able to get a foot in to break up the move, the Wrexham No.9 laid the ball off to one of his team-mates, whose shot deflected kindly to a fellow red jersey and he had the simple task of tapping the ball home.

North End manager Nick Harrison had reason to feel aggrieved, however, as the goalscorer looked to be in an offside position, but the goal stood.

That strike seemed to knock the Lilywhites out of their stride and a difficult spell followed as they looked to regain their composure and confidence.

Despite the poor goal the visitors had conceded, they eventually foraged a way back into the match by playing some neat and tidy football in a bid to carve out a chance or two.

And the chances that did fall; albeit half ones at best, continued to fall to the away side.

Joshua Brownhill was next to threating and he had his well hit volley saved superbly by the Dragons custodian, who managed to turn the ball away for a corner.

Brandon Zibaka also came close to pulling North End level, but his header crept inches wide of the post when it looked for all the world that it was about to nestle in the back of the net.

Wrexham would have been pleased to hear the half-time whistle, but when the players returned the Lilywhites continued where they had left off, as the hosts resorted to long ball tactics in a bid to relieve the pressure on their goal.

So when the second goal came for the Welsh side completely against the run of play, it was a sucker punch to North End’s title hopes.

Again the young Lilywhites were the architects of their own downfall after they were caught in possession again.

If Wrexham had got lucky with the deflection for their first goal, then they must have thought their name was on the league title with the second slice of luck they got, as the ball ricocheted in behind the Preston defence with the help of the wind, before one of their strikers raced on to it and kept his head well to pass the ball past the helpless Steven James in the PNE goal.

Harrison could only stand on in bewilderment at what had unfolded in front of him, due to the fact that his team had played so well over the course of the afternoon, yet trailed by two goals.

And his afternoon got even worse when Jack Sowerby was forced off with a knee injury with 20 minutes of the match remaining.

North End continued to try and find a way back into the game and Turner came close again, but he could only direct his header over the bar from a corner and that was to be that for the youngsters.

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