A blistering performance from Preston North End U18s saw them cruise to a 5-3 win over Wigan Athletic.
Goals from Lyle Magolis, Brad Roscoe, Sean Holmes and Jack Ryan ensured a comfortable three points.
The victory continued the youngsters’ excellent run of form with this victory their fourth in as many games.
And it was North End, who were exuberating confidence from their consecutive wins, that started the better of the two sides.
Forward Jack Ryan hassled and hurried the Wigan backline throughout the game, refusing to let the visitors settle.
And it was Ryan who nearly opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes.
Captain Josh Brownhill’s free kick found Ryan, who mistimed his jump but nearly bundled the ball, and himself, into the goal.
Moments later Ryan broke free of the Latics centre halves to latch onto a delicate lobbed pass from full back Nick Anderton.
Ryan tried to knock the ball around the advancing keeper but Callum Mulby in the Wigan goal did well to halt Ryan’s advances.
The ball did eventually fall to Brownhill but the skipper’s header was high over the bar.
Preston continued to pose Wigan numerous problems from all areas of the pitch.
Josh Brownhill lead another charge, wriggling his way free from countless opposition challenges but was unable to dance around Mulby, who clawed the ball away from the midfielder’s feet.
Preston controlled the game for the entire 90 minutes but the Latics always looked dangerous on the counter attack and forward Sam Cosgrove nearly gave his side the lead against the run of play.
Cosgrove ran clear of the Preston defenders but shot stopper Ross Dalton did well to stand up and deflect the Wigan man’s shot away from goal with his right boot.
Not long after, Preston were deservedly ahead, and with a bit of luck their play deserved.
Brownhill’s corner was curled into a crowd of bodies and was inadvertently headed in by Wigan defender Sean Harrison, who was under immense pressure from Ryan and centre back Josh Sampson.
North End continued to surge forward and should have went into the break ahead by more than just the one goal with Anderton and Ryan both going close.
Anderton cut in from the left and his right footed effort trickled just past the post. Ryan then, just before half-time, showed exactly what he is capable of.
He bullied one Wigan defender and carried the ball inside the box before nutmegging another but his effort was the wrong side of the post.
Soon after the interval, the young Lilywhites raced into an astonishing 4-0 lead with three goals in the space of eight minutes.
Substitute Lyle Magolis, who had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes, scored his side’s second to spark a flurry of goals.
Magolis, who replaced Tyler Forbes just moments before, collected Brownhill’s pass on the edge of the area and nonchalantly struck the ball past a motionless Mulby into the bottom corner.
Centre back Bradley Roscoe was next on the score sheet. Another Brownhill corner caused all sorts of problem for the Latics defenders and Roscoe duly tapped home for North End’s third.
Clearly rustled by Preston’s swift start to the second half, Wigan gifted the hosts their fourth.
A loose ball was pounced on by Joe Whittington who couldn’t quite squeeze the ball past Mulby but the rebound fell kindly to the onrushing Sean Holmes to give North End an unbelievable start to the second half.
Wigan refused to lie down however and Cosgrove reduced the margin with a fine strike which gave Dalton no chance.
The North End keeper was also powerless to stop Wigan’s second on the hour mark.
Cosgrove took the ball out wide and his pinpoint cross found strike partner Matthew Hamilton to give his side a glimmer of hope.
But Preston never looked troubled by Wigan’s mini revival and continued to play superb flowing football.
And 20 minutes from time they put the game beyond reasonable doubt. Anderton, who was magnificent throughout, was the architect for his side’s fifth.
His low cross into the area was turned in by Ryan, wrong footing Mulby, to cap an impressive personal performance.
There was still time for one more goal in the game and it was Wigan who got it.
Cosgrave sprung free from Josh Sampson and Roscoe and slotted the ball home for nothing more than a consolation.
Youth team manager Nick Harrison was visibly pleased with his side’s 5-3 win and challenged the youngsters’ to extend their current run of form.
He said: “The players are in a good place at this moment but they’ve got themselves there and what they have to do now is to maintain it and keep going.”
The academy boss was clearly impressed with North End’s clinical finishing, saying, “Once they got the second and third, they wanted to get more and we were pleased with that, very pleased.”
Harrison was also keen to speak of his delight with the strength and attitude of his squad, “I’m really pleased with, not just the players who are playing regularly but the players who are coming off the bench and who are part of the squad.”
Goalscorer Sean Holmes also spoke enthusiastically of the team’s development. The midfielder said, “I think everyone is developing really well. Everyone is doing their jobs, so we’re getting much better.”
Holmes believes his teammates' current mind set could see them extend their winning run further after stringing together four consecutive wins, “Every game we believe we are going to win, that’s the mentality that’s been put into us.”
Photographs by Tom Miller