Preston North End U18s got back to winning ways on Tuesday afternoon with a penalty shoot-out separating the sides at Victory Park in the Football League Youth Alliance Cup.
All five of Preston’s penalties were scored whilst Rochdale’s Abeyemi Akinnale-Samuels crucial spot-kick was saved by Ross Dalton, meaning North End avenged their 3-2 defeat in the league from the same opponents last week.
There were seven changes from that losing side a week ago, but it didn’t take those returning to the side long to bed themselves back into the starting line-up with North End taking the lead on 11 minutes through Robinson.
The midfielder pounced on Luke Pritchard’s blocked free-kick to drive his effort at goal with the ball taking a deflection on its way past before sailing past Rhys Lovett’s right hand post.
Dale responded with a goal of their own – Harry Pratt outwitting his marker to slot his effort past Dalton on 26 minutes but PNE were soon back in the ascendency after Jonathan Lunney from the left hand channel played a deep cross for Pritchard to latch onto and fire home.
The goal was a carbon copy of a previous ruled-out goal, but from opposing players with Pritchard feeding Lunney deep from the left by-line but on that occasion the referee ruled it out for off-side.
The visitors came out the traps in the second-half looking hungry to bring the scores level – Harry Pratt being denied on two occasions by the impressive Dalton, whilst Brandon Smalley’s first-time shot under the hour just lifted over.
But for all Rochdale’s pressure, it was North End who found the net on 67 minutes. Dsane intercepting a loose pass from Lovett to toe poke the ball past the goalkeeper and give Preston a 3-1 lead going into the business end of the game.
Dale soon hit back however through Dominic Reid with a brace of spot-kicks – the first one sending Ross Dalton the wrong way before placing the other calmly into the corner to ensure Rochdale levelled things up with 10 minutes left to play.
Neither side could add a fourth to the tally meaning the dreaded penalty shoot-out would decide who would progress into the next round.
Bradley Roscoe, Sean Whelan, Robinson and Lamin Jagne all converted their spot-kicks with Rochdale matching that feat – however on the fifth and final penalty before the sudden death stage, Dalton guessed correctly, to deny Akinnale-Samuels meaning Dsane had the chance to wrap things up with the final penalty.
Not a word could be heard as the forward stepped up for his penalty before slotting his spot-kick past Lovett and into the net to ensure his side had a ticket into the next round of the cup.
PNE XI - Ross Dalton, Clive Smith, Sean Whelan, Adam Robinson, Brad Roscoe, Harry Hagon, Jonathan Lunney, Bradley Wicks, Eddie Dsane, James Boyd, Luke Pritchard
PNE Subs – Josh Sampson, Lamin Jagne, Bradley Martin, Ben Roberts, James Quigley
Rochdale XI - Lovett, Akinnale-Samuels, Schorah, Cowan-Thompson, Sinclair, Coyne, Smalley, Berry, Pratt, Reid,Hooper
Academy coach Nick Harrison referred to the old cliché of a ‘game of two halves’ after his sides U18s penalty shoot-out victory in the cup yesterday afternoon.
Preston North End went into the changing rooms at half-time with a 2-1 lead and looked much the better team, but despite Eddie Dsane making it 3-1 after the break, Harrison felt his side didn’t put the performance that their qualities were capable of in the final 45.
And such is the high standards set at the academy of PNE, Harrison wasn’t best pleased with the second-half performance despite ultimately going on to win the game.
“We were very good in the first-half and I thought we played some really good stuff and passed the ball around well,” acknowledged the academy coach.
“But in the second-half, Rochdale were the better team – we took our foot off the pedal and allowed them to come onto us and let them get back into the game.
“The lads have got to understand that it’s a cup game and if a team’s behind at half-time, the opposition’s going to be at.”
Putting that aside, the penalties that were on show this afternoon particularly in a white shirt put those that were taken in Brazil a few months ago to shame!
And although Harrison was quick to offer his commiserations to Rochdale with a shoot-out never a nice way to go out, he was more than happy with how clinical North End were from the spot.
“The lads practice most days in their own time,” said Harrison on why North End were so ruthless from 12 yards.
“We had a bit of time yesterday after training to go through our penalties, and treat it like a shoot-out, and I’m sure Rochdale did as well because I thought they were all great penalties and the lad who’s missed it is really unlucky because even that wasn’t a bad penalty.
“Our goalkeeper Ross Dalton comes out with full credit to produce a brilliant save, and our lads showed great character to win the shoot-out.”