PNE U18s battled back to secure a 3-1 victory over Accrington Stanley U18s yesterday afternoon.
Played at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn, it took North End a while to find their rhythm – a free-kick from James Boyd was pretty much the only passage of play worth reporting on from a Preston perspective in the first-half with the second-year scholar curling a 25-yard free-kick over.
38 minutes on the clock and Stanley were ahead - Scarth latched onto a square ball into the box following a Stanley counter to fire the hosts into the lead with half-time approaching.
Speaking after the game, Academy boss Nick Harrison was honest in his assessment of the first 45 declaring: “we were poor first-half, poor off the ball and poor on it.
“We just didn’t get going – I can’t say they threatened us too much, their goals came from a mistake and we had lots of the ball, but we weren’t good enough.
“We had a few words at half-time – we said it wasn’t good enough for Preston North End, and it wasn’t good enough for us and the players knew that.”
A few home truths at half-time seemed to do North End the world of good, with the Lilywhites a shadow of their first-half performance
Just after the hour mark, North End drew level – Adam James Robinson came on as a second-half sub and equalised with a header at the back post from a Boyd corner.
A peach of a ball into the box from Oliver Crankshaw meant all Robinson needed to do to grab his second was to lift the ball over the goalkeeper’s head to give Preston the lead.
Meulensteen, another substitute sealed the win with a cool calm finish under pressure a minute later marking a victory, and a sign that the players had taken in what Harrison and co had told them at half-time.
“We’re pleased that they’ve taken on board the information that we’ve given them and that’s what we expect,” he continued.
“We were by far the better team in the second-half and ultimately, I think we deserved to win the game.
“We put the ball in the box more - we’re not going to score if we don’t put the ball into important areas so that’s what we wanted and that’s what they did.”
A catalyst in the resurgence was the two second-half substitutions of A James Robinson and Dylan Davidson, who added energy to the Preston attack.
“We needed to make the changes,” Harrison said. “Although we started the second-half brighter, I couldn’t see where the goals were going to come from.
“We put some players on who are a bit more attacking minded, bit more creative, and they were only on the bench really because they were ill in the week, and haven’t trained a lot so it’s a credit to them that they can bounce back from their illness.”
The result also means North End go into the FA Youth Cup fourth round tie against Exeter next month on the back of a win, with the players able to enjoy a few weeks off for the festive period.
“I think the lad need the break,” added the youth team boss.
“It’s been a long season already in terms of the amount of games being played and the number of sessions that the boys have to do now as part of the Premier League rules so it’s been tough on them so I think they do deserve a break.
"They can go off and enjoy Christmas and see their families, and look forward to an exciting January.
“We’ve got the FA Youth Cup against Exeter to look forward to so we’re going to have to bring them in and get the fitness levels back up to where they should be and they’ll be doing a bit of work at home during the Christmas period as much as they’ll be resting but yes we’re all looking forward to the break away from each other and excited about coming back in the New Year.”
PNE XI: Hudson, Tait, Whelan, Jagne, B Roberts, A Joseph Robinson, Crankshaw, Creech, Newhouse, Boyd, Earl
PNE Subs: Davidson, C Roberts, Meulensteen, Kwateng, A James Robinson