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Port Vale U18s 1-1 PNE U18s (PNE win on penalties)

31 August 2015

Preston North End U18s marched on into the second round of the Youth Alliance Cup after beating Port Vale on penalties.

The side that saw off the Valiants were coached by assistant manager Andy Fensome, with manager Nick Harrison taking charge of the reserve game on the same afternoon.

As well as an absentee in the coaching staff, a number of players were also missing with several academy players stepping up to play with some of the first team in the reserve fixture.

And perhaps it was telling that half the side was missing when Port Vale took the lead five minutes before half-time - but North End to their credit soon hit back through Leon Creech to bring the game level going into half-time.

Neither side could find a second in the second-half meaning a shoot-out would decide the victors with the game going straight to penalties after the final whistle.

Speaking after the shoot-out win, Fensome gave credit to the Lilywhites win considering the number of new faces on show. 

He said: “Any win in the cup is of course a good win, but the performance wasn’t what we expected or what we would have liked.

“But then again, we finished the game with five U15s and five U16s – the performance maybe wasn’t what we were expecting but at the end of the day, it’s a cup game and a win no matter how you get it keeps you in the competition.

“We were looking on the second years we still had in the side to lead the way for the younger players. It was a good experience all round for all of the lads no matter what age group because it was a cup competition and an experience of a penalty shoot-out.”

Round two for the youthful Lilywhites is a trip to the North-East to take on Hartlepool, and Fensome believes a good cup run will bode well for the development of the young North Enders.

“We look at it being another game we want to win,” continued Fensome on progressing in the cup.

“The more games we play in the season, the more chances the boys get to develop.

“It gives the boys the opportunity to experience a cup competition, which is good practice with the FA Youth Cup following a similar format. 

“If you’re playing another game, it gives us another game that we want to win and we’ll look to go as far as we can in the competition.”

North End’s advancement in the competition was helped with the goalkeeping heroics of first-year Callum Roberts.

Roberts, who arrived from Sunderland in the summer put on a solid performance to limit the Valiants to just the one goal, and was pivotal in the Lilywhites shoot-out victory saving three of the four penalties.

“Callum had an excellent game,” added the former Preston right back.

“He kept us in the game at times at the very end - he was strong and had good handling.

“We talked to him and Jack Cudworth [youth team goalkeeping coach] about the penalties prior to the game the day before.

“We had a little bit of a practice session down at Springfields so Callum was well aware that if it went to penalties of what to do, and too be fair to him, he stood up to his job and did really well for us.”

Although the Port Vale fixture was the first competitive game Fensome has took charge of this season, the coach has been ever-present for the U18s 2015/16 season as Harrison’s number two.

A season, which has so far drawn on many positives after losing away at Wrexham on the opening day of the campaign, and Fensome believes the U18s have shaken off that slow start to the season.


He added: “We’ve had one or two disappointing results - We think we started off pre-season pretty well and there was a number of good performances at the start.

“We had a little bit of a dip right at the end of pre-season which is not ideal with the season starting, and that perhaps affected confidence going into the Wrexham game away from home.

"To then lose that game, the boys again lost a bit more confidence but we just said to them, ‘keep going, you’ve got the ability, you’re good players, just keep believing in yourself and believing in what we’re trying to achieve and what we’re trying to teach you, and you’ll become better players along the way’.

“The 0-0 in the second game was a positive, and then to win away against Carlisle was a big boost.

“The first competitive win is always important and the Port Vale win would have gone a long way to building confidence up.

“Some of the players haven’t had as much game time, so for them to get some minutes and a win under their belt, even though it was penalties is good for them.”


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