A last minute Josh Brownhill penalty secured Preston North End’s U18’s first win of the season in their 2-1 defeat of Port Vale.
The youth team captain neatly tucked home from the spot for his second of the game, and fourth in three games, after giving North End an early lead with a sweet left footed strike.
The youngsters were made to work for the win against a Port Vale team that were reduced to ten men on the hour mark after their keeper was shown a second yellow.
Vale had equalised on the stroke of half-time with a well struck volley finding the corner of Ross Dalton’s goal.
After two straight defeats, North End started the better and looked determined to find their first victory of the campaign.
Forward Lyle Magolis gave an energetic performance and proved a real headache for the Port Vale centre half pairing.
His battling early on nearly produced the game’s opening goal. Magolis harried Vale’s centre half and the ball ran free for Brownhill, who slipped in Joe Whittington down the left.
The winger could only shoot at the opposition keeper’s legs when he broke free of the Vale backline.
Not long after Nick Anderton’s clever free kick trickled past the Port Vale post. It was Magolis again proving to be a nuisance who won the free kick and Anderton shot low under the jumping wall and nearly caught everyone by surprise.
North End’s bright opening to the game was rewarded 15 minutes in.
A superb flowing move saw the ball shifted from back to front in the blink of an eye.
Magolis collected the ball on the halfway line and drove at the heart of the retreating Port Vale defence.
With options left and right, he waited until just the right moment to slide in Brownhill. Through on goal, the midfielder showed great composure, taking one touch before hitting an unstoppable left footed drive beyond the Vale keeper.
The goal sparked a response from Port Vale who had struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the game.
Shot stopper Dalton was untroubled by the first effort on his goal as a shot from range went comfortably wide of his right hand post.
But Vale continued to grow into the game. And only for defender Bradley Roscoe’s heroic clearance off the line they would have been level.
Brownhill, in his attempt to dribble the ball out from the back, was robbed in possession. The Vale winger darted towards goal and curled the ball beyond Dalton, only for Roscoe to appear from nowhere and clear the ball to safety.
Port Vale started to impose themselves on the game and they deservedly equalised five minutes before the interval.
A defensive mix up saw Roscoe’s header find an onrushing Vale striker’s feet, who volleyed home his team’s equaliser.
Preston responded well after conceding and were unfortunate not to go into the break ahead.
Brownhill’s shot from distance stung the palms of the Vale keeper, whilst Jack Ryan and Sean Holmes could only shoot over from inside the box.
Again, it was Preston who started the better after the half-time break.
Midfielder Holmes’ volley from just inside the area cannoned back off the bar after good wing play by Whittington.
It was clear that North End’s slick passing for periods in the game was causing problems for Vale.
Midfield trio Bradley Wicks, Holmes and Brownhill were central to most Preston moves. And it was a quick counter attack started by Holmes which nearly gave North End the lead.
Brownhill broke from the halfway line, carrying the ball deep into the opposition half before finding Whittington whose shot was parried.
And it was the lively Whittington who nearly found his team’s second. He twisted and turned before cutting inside and curling an effort which whistled past the post.
Port Vale were then reduced to ten men with half an hour to play.
Jack Ryan pounced onto a long, forward pass and knocked the ball round the keeper, who in turn hacked down the forward just outside the area.
North End became frustrated at their opponents valiant defending as Vale sat deeper and deeper as the game went on.
Brownhill was left kicking himself after shooting high over with the goal at his mercy.
But just as it seemed both teams would have to settle for a point a penalty was awarded.
Brownhill’s free kick was adjudged to have been handled inside the penalty area.
The captain stepped up and calmly sent the keeper the wrong way to gift his team their first points of the season.