Simon Grayson sung the praises of his 17-year-old match winner after North End overcame Gillingham with a 2-1 win at Priestfield.
Keith Keane and full debutant Josh Brownhill scored in the first ten minutes after half-time and although Danny Kedwell reduced the arrears with a header 14 minutes from the end, North End held on for a deserved win against Peter Taylor’s new charges.
Speaking straight after the victory the PNE boss was delighted that the youth team talent had shown his capabilities and grabbed a deserved goal.
“All credit to him,” said Simon. “I thought he did really well in the game; very composed with ball, gets into good areas in advanced positions and was in the right place at the right time, so it will be a debut he will remember for a long time.
“Many other players would have slashed at it and it might have gone wide or over the bar, but we see him do that on a regular basis in training. He gets into those areas, attacks the ball really well and he deserved his chance today because of the way he has performed in the last two games where he has come on as sub and what I see every day from him in training.
“I just thought today was the right time to throw him in.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t know a lot about the lad before the summer. We had him a couple of times last year with us and we thought he was okay and would do well this year, but did we seriously think he would be in the first team within the first four months of the season? Probably not, but there are opportunities for any player and he is a good example for the rest of our Academy players that if they do well and impress, they will get an opportunity in the first team.
“I am not afraid of playing young kids, because if they are good enough, they will play and he has taken his opportunity.”
The game itself saw North End dominate the first half, the OPTA stats after half an hour showing 83 per cent possession for the Lilywhites, but a half-time word from the coaching staff about shooting when in the final third paid dividends.
“I thought the game today was a game that for 60 minutes we were cruising in. We were very comfortable.
“I thought we controlled the first half and we just needed to up the tempo in the final third with a bit crisper passing. We got the two goals and then their goal changed it. They went for it, they had nothing to lose and in the last five minutes we were hanging in.
“I had expected it to be like that at the start of the game and the end in terms of how they would be with a new manager, but we hung in there and we’ve got three points.
“In the first half we were totally in control. We might not have created many chances, but we passed it around; it was 33 minutes before they had a shot, so we were in control of the game.
“I said to the players at half-time that they needed to up the tempo in the final third and we will get goals, because they are a team who would be a little fragile, so we had to increase it and we did, we got the goals, and then in the last five or ten minutes we saw it out. We could have been more comfortable and killed the game off a little bit better, but Gillingham deserve credit for making it difficult, but it was a great victory for us.
“We spoke to the players before the game about being more aggressive in the final third and get some shots off more. Sometimes we are too negative in our approach around there. I don’t mind players missing opportunities as long as they are taking some and Keano got in there and obviously it was a dream but for Josh to go and get the second one.”
The manager watched the game from the stands after receiving a one match touchline ban for comments made to the match official in the dressing room areas after the Crewe defeat and he joked that people might suggest he does that every week.
“The staff might be saying that, but it’s a bit lively up in the box with our directors!” He laughed. “I was frustrated with the performance of the official against Crewe and he reported me for a few words. I accepted the charge, dealt with the situation and served the ban today. It was the first time that has happened to me and hopefully it’s the last.”