Preston North End U18s returned to winning ways, with a 4–0 victory over Oldham at Springfields
Two goals apiece from Jack Sowerby and U16 Rhys Turner in the second half helped North End secure victory after a cagey first 45 minutes.
As the rain fell solidly in the first half, both teams struggled to get a grip on the game. But when the sun came out in the second half, North End’s youngsters showed their class and carved Oldham open on a number of occasions.
Chances were few and far between in the opening stages, but Preston had the first real opening of the game after ten minutes. A ball delivered from the right bounced around in Oldham’s area before it fell to Joshua Brownhill on the edge of the area, who blazed his half volley way over the bar.
It was the visitors who threatened next, as they had a golden opportunity to take the lead. Striker Haydn Foulds took the ball round the PNE ‘keeper Steven James, but his resulting shot was superbly cleared off the line by Daniel Forbes.
Oldham had another chance shortly after, when Joe Edwards delivered a wicked ball into the North End box, only for Luke Wandles to slice his effort straight at James.
North End fought their way back into the game as the rain fell on a miserable morning at Springfields. Captain Ryan Crosdale met a Sowerby cross, only to put his header over the bar.
Crosdale had another chance five minutes before the break, shooting well from 20 yards, but the Latics ‘keeper Joel Coleman was equal to it, parrying it round his post for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Rhys Turner rose the highest, but failed to test Coleman.
The sides went into the break level, but it took Preston just two minutes to take the lead in the second half.
Brandon Zibaka took the ball at the edge of the Oldham box, laid it off for Sowerby who struck a low shot into the bottom right hand corner, and despite Coleman getting a hand to it, he couldn’t stop the ball nestling in the side of the net.
North End’s opener seemed to energise the home side, and just three minutes later they doubled their advantage and it was a carbon copy of the first goal. Zibaka once again took the ball with his back to goal, backheeled to Sowerby who firmly struck to the bottom right hand corner of Coleman’s goal.
Chances started to come more freely for Preston in the second half, and Zibaka had a great chance to open his account for the day when he headed a Crosdale cross over the bar from point blank range.
Another Zibaka effort was blocked by the Oldham defence, and Turner’s mazy run, which saw him pass a number of Oldham defenders led to a shot which Coleman saved well.
After 70 mintues, North End extended their lead to 3–0, with Turner grabbing the first of his brace. Forbes met a Sowerby corner with his head, but his effort struck the bar. Luckily for North End the ball fell kindly to Turner, who had the easy job of smashing the ball into the back of the net from six yards.
Two more chances fell for Zibaka, but he couldn’t find the back of the net with either.
With only a minute of normal time remaining, North End added a fourth through Turner again, and he had Oldham goalkeeper Coleman to thank for it.
Forbes swung in a left footed cross which Coleman came to collect, only to somehow drop the ball at Turner’s feet, who once more had the easy job of putting the ball in the goal.
Deep into added time and Preston had a chance to make it five when the referee awarded them a penalty for interference from a corner. Substitute Joshua Amis stepped up, but his right footed penalty was saved well by Coleman.
U18s manager Nick Harrison was understandably pleased with his side’s win: “I’m delighted with the performance, especially in the second half,” he said. “If you perform well and work hard then the results will come. I’m really pleased with the performance, both as a team and as individuals.
“We said to the lads at 0-0 ‘we haven’t lost the game yet.’ I think they felt a little bit disappointed at half-time because they had a lot of possession, but just couldn’t put it in the back of net.
“We just asked them to work hard, play with the ball and the chances would come. I thought they performed really well in the second half, and were very positive to get the four goals.”
Two-goal Jack Sowerby believes a slight positional change in the second half was the reason behind his improved performance.
“Second half I thought I played a lot better than the first half, because I didn’t really get into the game in the opening 45 minutes,” said Soweby. “As soon as I moved behind the striker I thought I did well.”
“Our manager gave us a confidence boost at half-time. He said that you don’t win a game in the first 45 minutes, so that just encouraged us to keep on going and not give up.
“I didn’t expect the Oldham side to be so strong, but they had a few good players and they were hard to break down and created a few chances themselves.”
Sowerby finished by paying tribute to striker Brandon Zibaka, who teed him up for both goals: “Brandon is a really good player, he’s set me up a few times this year and he works really hard for the team.”