Preston North End U18s collected their first three points of the campaign away to Carlisle yesterday morning.
Four changes were made from last weekend’s goalless stalemate to Walsall – Akwasi Kwateng making his competitive bow for the U18s at the expense of Clive Smith at full back, and Oliver Crankshaw came into the side on the same flank at right midfield for Dylan Davidson.
James Boyd came in for Melle Meulensteen in the middle of the park, whilst Adam Joseph Robinson replaced Josh Earl on the left side of midfield
It was an explosive start for North End evident in their early lead – A Joseph Robinson heading a loose ball back into the box into namesake Adam James Robinson who was fouled in the area inside the first five minutes.
Lunney, for the second time this season, made no mistake from the penalty spot to give North End the initiative, and academy boss Nick Harrison heaped praise on not only the Irishman’s penalty conversion, but the build-up to the goal that proved to be the winner.
“He’s a good player and he’s confident enough to do that,” told the gaffer.
“But for us, it’s what comes before that is what we’re pleased with – we had a number of good passages of play before and after that so you’re always going to get opportunities and penalties if you’ve got runners in the box, and if you’re positive in attack.
“Of course, Lunney put the ball away and it was a terrific penalty, but there was a number of players involved in that penalty that also deserve credit.”
The lead didn’t halt North End’s positivity, with Crankshaw drilling a square ball to A Joseph Robinson on the edge of the box only for his shot to drag wide.
Lunney, from the same position also tried his luck not long after, but no avail, with his curling effort bending wide.
The hosts grew into the game as the first-half went on - most notably in the 41st minute when Kwateng cleared off the line from a Carlisle corner.
But North End, to their credit defended well, and Harrison was delighted that his side have two clean sheets to their name after just week three of the 2015/16 campaign.
He added: “Obviously we kept a clean sheet last week, so we gave them the challenge to do the same this week but score goals.
“Although not conceding is important, to get three points you obviously need to score goals and I felt we posed a threat on numerous occasions.
“We got the ball into the box well – we had good movement up top and plenty of shots on and off target so we’re happy.
“Teams are going to attack against us, and that’s part and parcel of football.
“Our back four plus all of the other players have got to deal with that, and like I say we’ve done that now in the last two games and we’ve built on it because we’ve scored a goal today.
“We want more clean sheets and we want more goals but winning 1-0 is a good habit to get into, and we’ll take that all day long.”
Content with one, it could have easily have been two had it not been for the linesman’s flag, after A James Robinson’s well taken header was ruled out for offside on 56 minutes.
Boyd came close to doubling the advantage prior to that, but A Joseph Robinson came even closer on the hour mark but his header was denied by the top of the crossbar.
A beautifully executed effort from Lunney forced the Carlisle ‘keeper to touch the ball onto the bar, and although the Blues number one stopped North End on most occasions, he couldn’t stop the visitors from taking three points back down the M6.
“We’re delighted to get the win and three points which is probably more important for the lads as a group of players,” admitted Harrison.
“But as coaches, we’re more delighted with how the lads have performed with or without the ball so it’s been a pleasing day.”
Next up for the U18s is a home fixture against Port Vale on the 1st September; 1:00pm kick-off.