North End U18’s made it two wins from two in 2013 with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers at Springfields.
Two goals in two second half minutes from Brandon Zibaka and Jack Sowerby added to a first from Sowerby, who converted Joe Whittington’s corner.
It was a first clean sheet in four matches for the Lilywhites, who never looked like conceding, as they controlled large parts of the game.
The first chance of the game fell to the hosts. Sowerby couldn’t control a through ball and it broke to Brandon Zibaka whose effort was saved.
Adam Thurston was unlucky not to have opened the scoring direct from a free-kick on the edge of the area, however, the curling effort stung the outside of the far post.
Preston had the lion’s share of possession without troubling Tranmere until a quick break away.
Steven James gathered a corner and threw the ball out to Jack Sowerby who carried the ball from inside his own half to Tranmere’s area and forced a corner. From the resulting corner the hosts broke the deadlock in the 25th minute. Joe Whittington’s delivery found Sowerby in the six-yard box and left the visitor’s keeper rooted to his spot.
Preston worked relentlessly to win the ball back and didn’t allow the opponents time to settle. It was this pressure which led to the next opening, Whittington won the ball deep in Tranmere’s territory and played a one-two with Zibaka before producing a curled effort which could only find the keeper’s hands.
Winger Josh Amis was next to win the ball in a dangerous position, but he fired wide from a tight angle.
The next chance came after Tranmere struggled to deal with a cross and it eventually bounced to Sowerby just outside the area, via a lay off from Whittington, but his half volley went harmlessly over
For all of Preston’s dominance the home side only went into the break a goal up.
The second half started as more of an open contest, as the home side struggled to control the game like they did in the opening 45 minutes.
Nine minutes after the restart Amis looked to advance into the opponent’s area, but it took a last ditch tackle to stop the flying winger. The challenge seemed innocuous, but left Amis down and in need of aid, seven minutes later Josh Brownhill replaced him.
Tranmere began to create chances and countered from a corner, it took a fine challenge from Thurston to stop Rovers from advancing further. It was a pivotal tackle as Nick Harrison’s men were vulnerable form the counter, with just two defenders back.
It gave Tranmere confidence to attack and they would have equalised had it not been for a great save from James. The stopper flew to his right to keep out a free-kick which looked destined for the top corner.
The visitors started to apply pressure on the hosts and a series of corners led to their best opportunity. The young PNE didn’t deal with a corner, allowing the ball to travel through the area, and were grateful that the onrushing attacker’s attempt flew over.
Tranmere’s new found confidence was evident when their full back galloped down the left to the byline and cut the ball back, only for the striker not to make proper contact.
Preston’s class began to show as the game opened up, and doubled their lead after Thurston’s free-kick caused Tranmere’s busy keeper to parry the ball only as far as Zibaka in the area. The in-form striker fired through the legs of the keeper from a tight angle to continue his hot goalscoring streak.
Within the next minute the Lilywhites were celebrating again when the impressive Sowerby carried the ball through the heart of the visitor’s team before unleashing a powerful strike into the top corner.
Whittington could have added extra gloss to the scoreline, but he couldn’t direct a looped header after smart play from Brownhill and Daniel Forbes.
The win keeps Preston top and have taken maximum points from their last five league games.
PNE line-up: James, Gray, Anderton, Forbes, Kuba-Kuba, Thurston, Croasdale, Sowerby (Scott, 80), Whittington, Amis (Brownhill, 61), Zibaka. Subs not used: Quinn, Livesey, Hagon.